Libya rebel representative pushes for U.S. support
Indeed, little is known of the group, and some worry that there are members of al-Qaeda within their ranks or on the periphery.
Libyan Interim Transitional National Council representative Ali Aujali, however, said that is not the case, emphasizing that al-Qaeda and other such violent terror organizations have no place in Libya.
"Al-Qaeda should not be involved in any kind of negotiation, or any future government, they have no place in Libya," he said Monday in a talk at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
Among the rebel leadership are a former economic minister and a U.S.-educated interim prime minister, and teachers, lawyers and professors have also joined the movement, he said.
While Libyans have joined al-Qaeda and fought in the Iraqi insurgency, those rank and file former insurgents have been rehabilitated, he said.
"Young people, they graduated from the universities, they have no job, they are doing nothing, unfortunately al-Qaeda was able to recruit some of them and took them to Iraq and to Afghanistan," he said. "But we managed to get them back. And after rehabilitation they came back to society. They changed their attitude completely."
Aujali, who resigned in February as Libya’s ambassador to the United States, also pushed for the United States to recognize the rebels, as have Italy, France and Qatar.
"Without this recognition there will be a lot of difficulties," he said, arguing that lack of access to frozen funds has disrupted the lives of many Libyan students living in the United States.
The United States has expressed concern that the rebels lack military experience and know-how, and that training them could amount to a long and drawn-out process. There have also been rumors of tensions between officers who have defected from Gaddafi’s military and the rebels’ rank and file.
Aujali, however, expressed confidence that the rebels would catch on to training quickly, adding that waiting too long would give Gaddafi a window of opportunity.
Meanwhile, the rebels on Monday rejected a peace "roadmap" from the African Union on grounds that it does not require Gaddafi to step down.
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