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Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool, Associated Press
U.S. Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta bows his heads during a wreath laying ceremony at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Dec., 16, 2011. Ataturk was the leader of Turkish War of Independence and the first President of the Republic of Turkey.

ANKARA, Turkey — The Pentagon chief says the U.S. needs to give Libya's new leaders some time to gain control of the militias that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi before the Obama administration can determine how to help the fledgling government.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the comments Friday in Turkey, a day before what will be an historic visit to Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

The U.S. is eager to encourage a new democracy in Libya. But the U.S. also is wary of appearing as trying to exercise too much control over the north African nation after its eight-month civil war.

There have been clashes in Libya between revolutionary fighters and national army troops near Tripoli's airport.