Libyan embassy reopens its doors in Washington
Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali speaks at the reopening of the Libyan embassy on Wednesday. Photo: Jamie Crawford/CNN
August 17th, 2011
06:23 PM ET

Libyan embassy reopens its doors in Washington

By CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

While it technically began operating last week, the Libyan Embassy in Washington was officially reopened Wednesday by its ambassador amid a crowd of proud Libyan-Americans waving flags and singing Libyan songs.

"This embassy will serve as a symbol of the new Libya here in the U.S.," Ambassador Ali Aujali said outside the Watergate building in Washington where the embassy is located. "We will work tirelessly not only to serve the needs of the Libyans studying, living and traveling in this country, but also to thank the United States government on behalf of the Libyan people everywhere for its continuing support for transition to a free and democratic nation."

The mission now represents the Transitional National Council (TNC), the rebel movement based in Benghazi, which the United States recognized as the rightful government of Libya on July 15.

The embassy was closed in March after the State Department expelled all diplomats loyal to the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Aujali, who previously represented the Gadhafi regime in Washington, resigned his post in February, and has since represented the TNC in Washington. He was formally accredited as head of the Libyan mission last week.

With the embassy reopened, Aujali has regained control of the embassy's frozen bank account, which is worth about $13 million. Aujali said he was speaking with State Department officials about the Obama administration's efforts to help the TNC gain access to the approximately $30 billion in Libyan assets frozen by sanctions. "We need immediate access to these resources" in order to work on "the humanitarian crisis, to provide basic services and continuing preparation for the democratic transition," he said.

Speaking with reporters inside the embassy, Aujali said he hoped the United States would also lift restrictions on its financial assistance that limits its use to humanitarian purposes only.

"If Gadhafi is killing his people with potato and eggs, I will accept that, but Gadhafi is killing his people with real weapons, we must have arms to defend ourselves," he said.

As the rebels continue battling Gadhafi's forces for control of Libya, Aujali said the TNC was actively planning for a democratic transition in Libya through the drafting of a constitution and preparing for elections.

"Our vision of a democratic Libya has taken root in a majority of our cities in our country and momentum has shifted slowly to our favor," Aujali said.

Aujali also said Gadhafi "has no more time, he has no more space, he has no more support inside Libya or outside," and predicted it would be only a matter of days before the regime fell.

And as the ambassador and his staff got back to work inside the embassy, a celebration continued outside on the street.

Mohammed Banoun, a Libyan-American, said he drove overnight to Washington from his home in Cincinnati to witness the reopening because he felt it was an important marker in his fight for a free Libya.

"I would never miss this day. I'm really very excited to be here," he said. "This is a very historical day in Libyan history and also in the Libyan-American relationship."

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Gadhafi • Libya
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Kerry Bedford, TX

    Now someone just needs to convince Gadhafi's he is no longer in charge.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  2. Kerry Bedford, TX

    N

    August 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  3. mary

    There are good and bad in every country, religion, culture and color...and Ive met a lot of good Libyan, a lot of good people from many Mid East countries who would love to be able to speak freely and have a fair vote. I wish people would quit equating radicals with one faith only...every country and religion and culture has had their share of this. I hope the people will use this opportunity to keep radicals at bay from training in their own lands so that free countries dont have to feel so defensive.Jews and Muslims and Christians have all lived together peacefully in past and radicals need to calm down and know that the people are not against Islam, but radical "anything" which hurts "everyone" eventually.

    August 18, 2011 at 1:24 am | Reply
  4. Jackass

    Nuke them all!!!!

    August 18, 2011 at 12:43 am | Reply
    • AD

      You have a very descriptive screen name.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Reply
    • Dianne

      What if they get more powerful in the near future and nuke you instead? You'd like that right? Because you aren't worth any more to the rest of the world than the rest of the world is to you. Get to your senses ignorant American, these are humanbeings you are talking about and they are just trying to live their lives peacefully except for a tiny small portion.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Reply
    • kazi

      Jack ass you have the right name and quality

      August 22, 2011 at 2:28 am | Reply

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