Panetta Is First US Defense Chief to Visit Libya

His trip comes as US lifts sanctions
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2011 5:25 AM CST
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta greets members of the Libyan delegation on the tarmac on his arrival at Tripoli earlier today.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Leon Panetta became the first US defense secretary to go to Libya earlier today, touring war-torn Tripoli, reports the AP. Panetta is scheduled to meet with members of the transitional government and visit the graves of 13 sailors who died in 1804, when the US Intrepid attempted to destroy pirate ships in the Tripoli harbor. "They've earned the right to try to determine their future. They've earned the right to try to work their way through the issues that they're going to have to confront," said Panetta.

"The last thing you want to do is to try to impose something on a country that has just gone through what the Libyans have gone through." The White House announced yesterday it was lifting the sanctions it imposed on Libya in February, freeing up $37 billion in assets. "It's not going to be easy. This is not a country that has a tradition of democratic institutions and representative government."

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