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Libyan opposition: We want international political support more than weapons

Members of the Libyan opposition’s Interim National Council appeared today at the London meeting on the international action in Libya and called for broader political support.

“We have been fighting with machine guns” against a superior army, said media chief Mahmoud Shammam, “but we are asking for political support more than we are asking for arms.”

In sharp contrast to what Muammar Qaddafi has called drug addicts and Al Qaeda members, he described the rebel movement as being made up of “well-educated” young people. What’s more, said Shammam, a Libyan exile and native of Benghazi, where the rebel government is based, rebels want to implement secular and democratic reforms.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Minister William Hague met opposition leader Mahmoud Jabril outside of the talks here. Ms. Clinton said that Mr. Jabril’s views on politics and civil society, including a secular vision of government, are “exactly in line with what [the opposition] has said are their goals.”

She added that until recently they have “not had any specific information” on the so-called “interim council” largely based in Benghazi. “We are still getting to know those who are leading” the transition, she said.

Another opposition leader, Guma el-Gamaty, who teaches at the University of Westminster in London and has been a Qaddafi opponent for years, said that Libyan youth have lived with “no hope, no jobs, no freedom of thought, no freedom of anything” for so long that when the tide turned in Tunisia and Libya, “they seized the chance to revolt … but Qaddafi is making that very hard.”

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