Representatives of the Libyan opposition’s Interim National Council said in Paris that a post-Gaddafi regime would be “secular and democratic”.
They also predicted that the embattled Libyan leader, who has continued to press against rebel-held towns despite a UN-backed military campaign, would fall quickly, opening the way for a rebuilding of Libyan society.
“The future Libya will be democratic and secular,” said Mansour Saif Al-Nasr, an emissary, though not a member, of the interim council, based in the rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi.
“The Libyan people are a moderate people, and the state will not be led by clerics,” he told a large gathering writers, ex-ministers and reporters assembled by Bernard Henry-Levy, a French intellectual who helped ease the way for France’s recognition of the rebel authority.
A second opposition spokesman, Ali Zeidan, said rebel forces needed weapons to defend their positions and pressure the Gaddafi regime.
“We want the coalition to continue to destroy the military capacity of Gaddafi,” said Ali Zeidan, the council’s informal spokesman in Europe. “We have the men. What we are asking for is the arms.”
Coalition forces – led by the US, France and Britain and including other European states along with Qatar – have launched air strikes since Saturday, acting under a UN Security Council resolution authorising “all necessary means” to protect civilians in Libya.
Despite the limited scope of the UN mandate and lack of weapons under rebel control, opposition leaders predicted a rapid end to Gaddafi’s rule.
Ali Zeidan said the conflict could be over “in 10 days if the air strikes continue with the same intensity to take out armoured cars and heavy artillery. We have enough men to march on Tripoli. We are sure of victory.”
France was the first nation to recognition the rebel-led authority, which it did on March 10 after a meeting in Paris between council members and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“In Libya, now they say, ‘One, Two, Three, merci Sarkozy’,” Al-Nasr said.
Britain quickly followed suit, identifying the opposition body as its “valid interlocutor”.