Canada to extend Libya mission by three months
CTV News has learned Canada will extend its military mission to Libya by up to three months to help the country get back on its feet.
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported the development, which is expected to be formally announced next week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with other NATO leaders in New York.
Canada has been participating in a NATO-led air campaign in Libya since civil war broke out earlier this year. NATO's stated goal has been to protect civilians from forces loyal to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Gadhafi has been ousted by the National Transitional Council, but pockets of conflict remain between Gadhafi loyalists and revolutionary forces, and the danger is not yet over.
Gadhafi's wherabouts are currently unknown.
Libya's charge d'affairs to Canada, Abubaker Karmos, said the country needs Canada's protection until Gadhafi is captured and his remaining fighters have laid down their arms.
"If this could cause harm to civilians, I don't think we'd like to see that," Karmos said.
Canada's commitment will not go unrewarded, Karmos said, suggesting numerous construction contracts will be up for grabs.
"The country has been through a devastating six months and there's a lot of rebuilding to do in the country," Karmos said.
On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada had assessed the situation on the ground and is ready to re-open its embassy in Libya's capital.
Baird confirmed reports that a small team of diplomats has been in Tripoli since the weekend, surveying the situation.
"Having now taken stock of the situation we're starting the work of refurbishing and securing our embassy in Tripoli," Baird told reporters in Ottawa.
He said the team is setting up an embassy in a temporary location until the original location can be re-opened.
Baird said the team is liaising with officials in Libya's National Transitional Council, and preparing for the arrival of a larger complement of diplomats who will focus on the resumption of trade relations between Canada and Libya.
Baird also said Canada has obtained an exemption from the United Nations Security Council's sanctions committee to free up more than $2 billion in frozen Libyan assets to use for humanitarian needs such as hiring police officers, teachers, restoring the flow of electricity and water and providing hospital resources.
"Canada is proud to have punched above its weight by leading the way in providing humanitarian, diplomatic and military support to the Libyan people and their cause," Baird said.
Canada could benefit from increased stability in Libya. The Calgary-based oil company Suncor was producing 50,000 barrels a day out of Libya prior to the civil war, and SNC Lavalin was working on a number of projects from building a prison to installing a water-supply system.
Harper, who attended meetings on Libya in Paris recently, has said he received assurances that the NTC would honour existing contracts with Canadian companies.