Last updated: January 31, 2013 5:33 pm

Cameron pledges security support for Libya

UK Prime Minister David Cameron meets recruits at a police training college in Tripoli, Libya©PA

UK Prime Minister David Cameron meets recruits at a police training college in Tripoli, Libya

David Cameron secured an agreement to dispatch Scottish police to Libya to investigate the Lockerbie bombing during a surprise visit to the Libyan capital aimed at strengthening security and economic ties.

The British prime minister last visited Libya in September 2011 alongside then French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The UK, as part of a Nato-led coalition, had played a key role in providing air support for the armed uprising that drove former Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi from power.

On Thursday, he strolled through Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, chatting briefly with shopkeepers and pedestrians. The western nations who supported the uprising remain enormously popular among many Libyans.

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“There is no true freedom and no true democracy, without security and stability as well. We are committed to helping with that both here and also in your neighbourhood,” Mr Cameron said at a news conference with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zidan.

Mr Cameron announced that a UK team would be sent to Libya to investigate the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, which Gaddafi took responsibility for in 2003.

He also attended a police academy graduation ceremony, where he pledged support for Libya’s fledgling security forces. “We have offered training and support from our police and our military,” Mr Cameron said. “We look forward to working together in the years ahead.”

The UK prime minister arrived in Tripoli on Thursday morning following a visit to neighbouring Algeria, where he offered a joint security partnership to help combat Islamist extremism in north Africa. He is scheduled to visit Liberia on the third leg of his tour.

His visit to the region comes two weeks after a devastating terror attack on a remote Algerian gas facility operated by BP, Statoil and Sonatrach, Algeria’s state-owned energy giant, in which 37 expatriate employees were killed.

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Algerian officials say the 32 alleged assailants staged the attack from nearby Libya, which has struggled to establish security in both its cities and desert hinterlands since Gaddafi’s downfall.

Oil producer Libya is keen to attract foreign funds and expertise after years of chronic under-investment under Gaddafi, but the In Amenas attack has cast doubt on BP’s plan to resume suspended oil exploration projects there.

Suspected Islamist militants have repeatedly targeted western diplomatic outposts in Libya, and the UK last week urged its nationals to leave the eastern city of Benghazi, which has experienced a wave of violence in recent months.

Mr Zidan said security in Libya was improving and welcomed any UK support. “Mr Cameron and other allies have emphasised to me that they will be with us, to support us in security matters, in military matters, in political matters, in matters of re-establishing the state,” he said.

In response to a question about the recent British warning on Libya, Mr Zidan said “the security situation did not call for it”.

Security was tight around the capital on Thursday. “Just when I thought the police started working properly, turns out it’s just for David Cameron’s surprise visit to Tripoli,” one Tripoli resident wrote on his Twitter page.

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