TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Tripoli on Thursday — the first heads of government to visit Libya since revolutionary forces seized the capital, a major endorsement for the North African nation's new rulers.
Cameron and Sarkozy planned to meet with the leaders of the National Transitional Council, the closest thing Libya's new rulers have to a functioning government, to discuss aid to help the transition to democracy after four decades of authoritarian rule by fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi.
France's finance minister said the visit is not about landing economic deals but about showing support for the former rebels who ousted Gadhafi.
Francois Baroin, speaking on France-Info radio, said the visit "is a strong gesture, it is a historic moment to go today to Libya." Asked whether there were economic arguments for the visit, Baroin said, "we are not at that stage."
France's focus is not yet on reconstruction contracts but on supporting the interim leadership and pursuing "the last pro-Gadhafi pockets," he said.
French news reports said Sarkozy was accompanied by dozens of French riot police, an unusual move. While the former rebels have control over most of the country, Gadhafi is still on the run and his loyalists are still holding out in three main strongholds in central and southern Libya.
Despite the continued instability, Libya's interim government, led by Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, has been trying to assert control and establish international legitimacy. The NTC has asked the United Nations for assistance as it struggles to establish a government.
The Security Council is considering a new resolution that would establish a U.N. mission in Libya, unfreeze assets of two major oil companies and lift a ban on flights by Libyan aircraft, according to a copy obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Britain circulated the draft resolution to the 15-member Council on Tuesday night, and Western diplomats said they are hoping for a vote by the end of the week. Diplomats said the U.S. and France were involved in the drafting, and veto-wielding Russia and China agreed to the draft.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.