Obama and Sarkozy hail major milestone on path to democracy

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World leaders hailed Muammar Gaddafi’s death as a major milestone on Libya’s path to full democracy but warned many more challenges lie ahead.

In strikingly similar statements, United States President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed news of the dictator’s demise with caution.

Mr Obama said it was a “momentous day” in the history of Libya but warned there would be “difficult days ahead” as the country moved towards democracy.

“This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya,” he said.

“For four decades the Gaddafi regime ruled the Libyan people with an iron fist. Basic human rights were denied, innocent civilians were detained, beaten and killed and Libya’s wealth was squandered, enormous potential of Libyan people was held back and terror was used as a political weapon.

“Today we can definitively say that the Gaddafi regime has come to an end.”

The president also urged the Libyan people to respect the human rights of those they had detained and promised the Nato mission would soon come to an end.

“The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted,” he said, “and with this enormous promise the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gaddafi’s dictatorship.

“We call on our Libya friends to continue to work with the international community to secure dangerous materials and to respect the human rights of all Libyans, including those who have been detained.

“We are under no illusions. Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people.”

Mr Sarkozy said Col Gaddafi’s death was a “major step” for Libya, adding: “The liberation of Sirte must mark, in accordance with the commitments made by the National Transition Council, the beginning of a process, approved by the NTC, that will establish a democratic system in Libya, in which all parties will have a place, and where fundamental freedom will be guaranteed.”

He added that France remained by the side of the Libyan people and would continue to support the country towards democracy.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides in the conflict to lay down their arms and work together peacefully to rebuild Libya.

“Clearly, this day marks an historic transition for Libya,” he said. “In the coming days, we will witness scenes of celebration, as well as grief for those who lost so much.”