Analysis by CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott
Paris - Even as they mark Libya's re-entry into the international community under the National Transitional Council, world leaders gathering here in Paris will serve their strong support with a healthy dose of tough love.
Sure, the NTC has talked a good game these last few months about their plans for building an inclusive, democratic government that respects human rights. But now diplomats from several countries say the NTC has to take the training wheels off. It has to move from a rebel force to a legitimate government that offers the Libyan people a better life than they had under Moammar Gadhafi's rule.
A key test will be if the NTC can provide security, meet the humanitarian needs of the people and deliver food and services.
The world is ready to help. In addition to unfreezing billions of dollars worth of frozen assets, the more than 60 countries and international organizations gathering here will be listening closely to what the Libyans say they need to re-stock hospitals, reopen schools, restore electricity and provide badly needed water. Gadhafi left the country in tatters, diplomats say, and the needs are enormous. The Libyans have asked for about 5 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to address the country's immediate needs, and with a number of countries scrambling to unfreeze assets held in their banks, that goal will likely be exceeded.
Everyone stresses that rebuilding the country must be a Libyan-led process. The NTC has insisted it does not want a United Nations peacekeeping force and, diplomats say, that must be respected. But many countries hope, and indeed expect, the NTC to ask for a U.N. mission which can provide the technical assistance needed to establish policing and rule of law, build institutions and move the country toward elections... in effect, building a nation from the ground up.
Just as the NTC must reform itself, so too must the international community, particularly the United States. It's not just about giving money to the NTC, helping them secure international recognition and participating in the NATO bombing of Gadhafi's command and control centers to aid the rebel forces. Officials recognize that the United States must evolve from international protector to international supporter. That means not coddling the NTC any longer, but holding the rebels to the same international standards expected of any legitimate government.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, officials say, will deliver a tough message to the NTC leadership that it must share its vision for a new Libya and turn its encouraging words into action. She will tell them they have an incredible opportunity to rebuild the country with international help. But she will caution that being in the lead means showing leadership.
Continued fighting and the NTC's lack of control over the entire country makes a timetable for a new constitution and elections somewhat fluid. But the international community will be expecting a clear idea of how the NTC is going to establish authority and the political process they envision for drafting a constitution and holding elections. The world also wants to know how the government intends to respect human rights and proceed with reconciliation. With reports swirling about abuse of prisoners by the NTC, the world needs assurance there will be no retribution for members of the Gadhafi regime and that the hand of justice in the new Libya won't smack of the treatment during the old one.
To this end, the lessons learned from Iraq loom large. While again respecting the NTC's wishes on how to deal with members of the Gadhafi regime, the international community wants to ensure that the Libyans don't repeat the same mistakes made by Paul Bremmer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, which disbanded the military and engaged in de-Baathification, a process which not only fueled the insurgency, but bled the country of badly-needed expertise. There is a realization that some Gadhafi loyalists will be needed to maintain stability.
While Thursday's meeting in Paris is an opportunity to discuss Libyan reconciliation, it is as much a chance to begin reconciliation of the international community on the Libyan issue. Several countries, particularly Russia and China, were reluctant about - if not completely opposed to - the NATO mission in Libya. Although neither country used their Security Council veto for the resolution authorizing the mission, both accused NATO of using its mandate to protect civilians as a pretext to aid the NTC with regime change.
Whatever the divisions that existed during the last several months, there is a general consensus on the need to move forward and help the NTC rebuild Libya. The group's learning curve will be steep, but its new allies hope they will be smart enough to know what they don't know, and ask for help that the international community is eager, and able, to provide.