Libyan Envoy Pleads for Ongoing U.S. Support As Lawmakers Target Aid

September 14, 2012 - 4:45 AM

Clinton-Libya

Libyan ambassador to the U.S. Ali Aujali speaks alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department on Thursday, September 13, 2012. (Image: State Department)

(CNSNews.com) – On the same day that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced a new legislative amendment to cut off U.S. aid to Libya and Egypt over this week’s violent events, Libya’s ambassador to Washington appealed on Thursday night for continuing U.S. support.

Recalling that the U.S. helped Libya in the civil war that toppled the 42 year-old Gaddafi regime last year, Ali Aujali urged the U.S. to “support us during the peace.”

“We are facing a serious problem, and we … need security and stability in our country,” he said. “The government, unfortunately, faces a serious problem, personnel and equipment. And the support of you and the friends who support us during the war is very important.”

Aujali was speaking alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a belated Eid-al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) event at the State Department.

He expressed his shock and sadness about the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomatic staff in Tuesday’s “terrorist attack” in Benghazi, expressing his condolences and appealing to Clinton to “accept our apology.”

Aujali called Stevens “a real hero,” who believed in Libyans’ ability to achieve democracy after four decades of dictatorship and who loved and was committed to the people of Benghazi.

Clinton thanked Aujali “for the support that his government and the Libyan people have shown to the United States in this tragedy, particularly the outpouring of feelings of grief and loss because of the killing of our ambassador.”

Earlier Thursday, Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) put forward an amendment to the veterans’ jobs bill under consideration, cutting off foreign assistance to Libya and Egypt until those involved in Tuesday’s attacks on the consulate in Benghazi and the embassy in Cairo are apprehended and in U.S. custody.

The move follows an earlier amendment by Paul withholding aid from Pakistan until Pakistan frees the doctor who helped the U.S. in tracking down Osama bin Laden, and was sentenced over the summer to 33 years’ imprisonment.

“My position is not one penny more for Libya or Egypt or Pakistan until they act like our allies,” Paul said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Some say we’ve got to keep sending it. Fine. Let’s send it when they act like our allies. Let’s send it when they start behaving like civilized nations and come to their senses.”

Paul in his remarks directed most of his criticism at Pakistan, saying while many Pakistanis have helped the U.S., many others “with a wink and a nod look at us, take our money and laugh at us.”

He also criticized the Egyptian government for its response to the protest at the U.S. Embassy, where some participants breached the embassy compound walls, destroyed an American flag and hoisted a black Islamic banner.

“We give Egypt $3 billion a year and you know what? Egypt can’t protect or won’t protect our embassy,” he said. “Well, Egypt needs to act like our ally if they want to continue to cash our checks.”

Paul’s amendments, which have run up against opposition from Senate Democratic leadership, would redirect the $4 billion now going to Pakistan, Libya and Egypt each year, directing $2 billion to the veterans’ jobs bill – tripling the program in size – and applying to other $2 billion towards reduce the federal deficit.

In the House of Representatives, conservative Republicans are also calling for aid to Libya and Egypt to be stripped from the continuing resolution funding the federal government for the next six months. It is expected to be voted on Thursday.

Libyans relatively pro-US

Gallup polling has found more positive views of the United States in Libya than in most other countries in the region.

In one poll, last March and April, 54 percent of Libyans expressed approval of U.S. leadership, a score the pollster said was “among the highest approval Gallup has ever recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region, outside of Israel.”

In the same poll, only 22 percent of Libyans voiced approval of Chinese leadership and 19 percent of Russian leadership. Russia and China abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote that paved the way to NATO intervention in Libya and were critical of the mission.

In the equivalent Gallup survey in 2011, Libya accounted for lower negative ratings (32 percent) than any other country in the region. By contrast, 55 percent of Egyptian respondents disapproved of U.S. leadership, as did 59 percent of Turks, 65 percent of Iranians, 71 percent of Lebanese and 80 percent of Palestinians. In Asia, 49 percent of Pakistanis and 62 percent of Afghan respondents disapproved of U.S. leadership.

Even some countries in Europe accounted for higher disapproval ratings than Libya, including Germany (39 percent), Greece (58 percent), Bosnia (61 percent) and Serbia (75 percent).