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US senators call Libyans inspiration for world

By Kim Gamel

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 29 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks to reporters during a visit to Tripoli, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. Four U.S. senators visiting Libya say they talked to the country's new rulers about the need for justice in the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing. The four are part of the highest-ranking American delegation to travel to Tripoli since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted last month.

Abdel Magid al-Fergany, Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya — U.S. Sen. John McCain called Libya's revolutionaries an inspiration to the world, singling out activists in Syria, Iran, China and Russia, Thursday as he led a Republican delegation to Tripoli. It was the most prominent American delegation to travel to the Libyan capital since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

McCain, a former presidential candidate from Arizona, expressed confidence in Libya's new leaders but urged them to rein in armed groups and to press the hunt for Gadhafi, who has continued to try to rally supporters from his hiding place.

McCain said he was thrilled to be in Tripoli after traveling in April to the then-opposition's eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

"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.

But he expressed concern about the proliferation of weapons and armed groups, saying it was important for the country's leadership "to continue bringing the many armed groups in this city and beyond it under the responsible control of its legitimate governing authority."

"It's also important to bring this war to a dignified and irreversible conclusion, to bring Gadhafi and his family and his fighters to justice, while ensuring that past wrongs do not become a license for future crimes, especially against minorities," he said.

Interpol placed another of Gadhafi's sons, al-Saadi, on the equivalent of its most-wanted list on Thursday, placing pressure on the government of Niger to surrender a man accused of overseeing bloody repressions.

A Niger presidential spokesman has said al-Saadi Gadhafi is living under house arrest in the Western African country's capital, Niamey, after fleeing Libya earlier this month via the desert bordering the two nations.

Interpol has already issued red notices for Moammar Gadhafi and his son Seif al-Islam based on a request by the International Criminal Court. Both men have been charged with crimes against humanity.

The four lawmakers, who also included Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Marco Rubio of Florida, addressed reporters after meeting with the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, and other high-ranking officials from the group that is now governing Libya.

They also toured Martyrs' Square, formerly named Green Square and the site of frequent Gadhafi speeches, and visited a prison amid allegations of poor conditions and human rights violations by former rebels taking revenge on former Gadhafi supporters.

Graham said that Libyans who met the team of visiting senators had expressed gratitude and want to repay the international community that rallied around Gadhafi's opponents. NATO airstrikes played a key role in decimating Gadhafi's military forces as rebels battled their way into the capital late last month and forced Gadhafi into hiding.

"There is a desire here by the Libyan people to make sure that those who helped will get paid back," Graham said.

American companies are hoping to tap into the wealth of oil and natural resources and other opportunities in Libya, which under Gadhafi 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.

He acknowledged, however, that it would be difficult for companies to get started until the country is completely secure. Gadhafi loyalists continue to put up a fierce resistance in three strongholds in central and southern Libya.

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