Libya rebels rejoice, but "tall order" remains

After months of a back-and-forth campaign against Muammar Qaddafi's regime, Libyan rebels struck what may well be the decisive blow against the longtime dictator, wresting most of Tripoli from his power with remarkable ease and quickness.

But Sunday's triumph may prove to be the easiest part in the rebels' quest to reshape Libya's political landscape.

Uniting to confront Qaddafi militarily is one thing, former diplomat Nicholas Burns told "The Early Show," but "it's much more difficult to organize effective government operation throughout a very vast country."

"The rebels have to unite the country politically, provide government services to a country that hasn't had it. That's a tall order. We can expect this to be chaotic, uneven and unfortunately violent as remaining Qaddafi supporters struggle against this rebel government," said Burns, who served as undersecretary of state during the George W. Bush administration and is now a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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The rebels will also have to tackle the sizable goal of rebuilding Libya without the direct help from NATO that proved crucial to neutralizing Qaddafi's forces. A NATO source told CBS News that the alliance had no plans for securing a post-Qaddafi Libya. Assistance from United Nations peacekeepers is possible, but that would have to be requested from Libya's transitional government, the source said.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the Transitional National Council, will be a key player in determining how smooth the shift to a new government will be. Speaking to the press Monday in Benghazi, Jalil insisted that Libya's new government would be one based on "freedom, democracy, justice, equality and transparency - within a moderate Islamic framework."

His mention of a "moderate Islamic framework" appeared to counter oft-cited suspicions that hard-line Islamists had gained increasing influence in the rebel movement - claims made by Qaddafi himself as he sought to bolster his dwindling support.

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But despite the optimistic rhetoric about creating a free and tolerant society, Jalil will have to convince Libya's diverse tribal factions to put their faith in the TNC.

"There is ... a presumption that this government is more favorable to the eastern part of the country, to Benghazi, where that movement has been centered for the last six months," Burns said. "They have to work hard ... to convince people in the south, the center, the west, and some of the Qaddafi strongholds, including his hometown, that they mean well and there won't be reprisals against those civilians who supported Qaddafi in the past."

The prospect of retribution against Qaddafi loyalists is one of Jalil's concerns.

"My fear is that some actions which are outside the framework of the orders they get from their leaders, especially those concerning revenge," he said, according to an Al Jazeera translation. "I object strongly to any execution outside the framework of the law, regardless of the act done. I hail the leaders of these groups and trust their word but some of their followers worry me."

Underscoring the importance of maintaining the rule of law through any transition, Jalil pledged that Qaddafi, if caught, would be given a fair trial. He also said that two of Qaddafi's captured sons, Mohammed and Saif al-Islam, were safe in the hands of the revolutionaries.

While building broad internal support for the new government is one of the main challenges confronting the TNC, they already enjoy significant international recognition - 32 nations have acknowledged the rebel council as the legitimate government of Libya. That international recognition is already proving fruitful, with British Prime Minister David Cameron announcing that the United Kingdom would lift restrictions on assets frozen during Qaddafi's tenure - money that could aid the transition.

But not all governments are following suit. European Union spokesman Michael Mann said that while the EU stands ready to help with humanitarian aid and the democratization process, it won't unfreeze government-controlled assets until it has had more time to evaluate the situation - a reminder to the TNC that the victories secured in the arena of government are just as important as those won on the field of battle.

  • Daniel Carty

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