Libya: Int'l community distracted, ME expert Mezran says

Tuesday's was an attack on democracy, the police is weak

12 September, 19:10

(ANSAmed) - ROME, SEPTEMBER 12 - "After the enthusiastic declarations on the elections in Libya, the international community got distracted", Johns Hopkins University Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Karim Mezran told ANSAmed in an interview on Wednesday.

A senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based Middle East Policy Council, Mezran, who is Libya-born, directs the American Studies Center in Rome and co-edited the book "Libya: End or Rebirth of a Nation", published recently by Italian Donzelli. In a telephone interview from Washington, DC, Mezran said he has no doubt that last night's attack on the US consulate in Benghazi is yet another attempt at the "destabilization" of a country that is still struggling to make a democratic transition after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

"The problem is the weakness of the security forces, which are infiltrated by Salafists", he said. "A stronger intervention in support of the local police is needed".

He urged the West to act on this issue, which he said is recognized from within the country itself. The Libyan government should ask for help, because it is not immune to the fate of the American ambassador, said Mezran. Libya's interior ministry is clearly incapable of containing the violence, as was shown in the recent attack on the Rajma mausoleum near Benghazi, in which local residents took up arms against a group of fundamentalists, leaving three people dead. Mezran supports US President Barack Obama's decision to send marines to defend US diplomatic missions in Benghazi and Tripoli. Europe, including Italy, and NATO should also intervene in favor of local security forces, he said.

"They should be helping to guarantee stability, instead of just trying to do deals that may never close because no one can guarantee them", the professor said with regard to Italians.

The authorship of yesterday's attack is unclear, he added.

Until it took place, he said, "very few people had seen that film about Mohamed", which is now readily available on the Internet. Someone, be they Gaddafi supporters or terrorist groups, is "fomenting" the crowds. It was "not a spontaneous gesture, but part a clear attack on democracy in Libya", and the government must be enabled to "show that the state is stronger", Mezran concluded. (ANSAmed).

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