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US senators speak of grateful Libya

Four visit Tripoli to forge political, business relations

By Kim Gamel
Associated Press / September 30, 2011

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TRIPOLI, Libya - Senator Lindsey Graham said yesterday that Libyans who met a group of visiting senators had expressed gratitude and want to repay the international community that rallied around Moammar Khadafy’s opponents and played a key role in the dictator’s defeat.

The South Carolina senator traveled to Tripoli with three other Republican senators as part of the highest-profile American delegation since rebels, backed by NATO air strikes that decimated Khadafy’s military forces, battled their way into the capital late last month and forced Khadafy into hiding.

“There is a desire here by the Libyan people to make sure that those who helped will get paid back,’’ Graham told journalists in the capital after he and the other senators - John McCain of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Marco Rubio of Florida - toured Martyrs’ Square, formerly named Green Square and the site of frequent Khadafy speeches.

The four US lawmakers also met with the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, and other high-ranking officials of the group that is now governing Libya.

The senators said American companies are hoping to tap into the wealth of oil and natural resources in Libya, which, under Khadafy, long faced sanctions that prohibited much business.

“I think that American investors are more than eager to come invest here in Libya, and we hope and believe that they will be given an opportunity to do so,’’ McCain said.

But he acknowledged that it would be difficult for companies to get started until the country is completely secure. Khadafy loyalists continue to hold out in three strongholds in central and southern Libya.

McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was thrilled to be in Tripoli. “I’ve dreamed of returning to a liberated capital of a free Libya ever since I visited Benghazi in April, and our visit to Tripoli today has been exhilarating and hopeful,’’ McCain said

He called the Libyans an inspiration for people worldwide who are suffering under authoritarian regimes.

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