Panetta becomes first Pentagon chief to visit Libya


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta


Karen Bleiber

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has become the first Pentagon chief to visit Libya, after arriving in the capital Tripoli on Saturday to meet its the country's new rulers, the Associated Press reported.

Panetta's stay will last a period of hours, and include talks with interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib and Defense Minister Osama al-Juwali.

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Ahead of his visit, Panetta said that before determining how to help Libya, the US needed to give the government time to recover and move towards stability, following the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi.

Panetta said on Friday before landing in Tripoli:

"The last thing you want to do is to try to impose something on a country that has just gone through what the Libyans have gone through. They've earned the right to try to determine their future. They've earned the right to try to work their way through the issues that they're going to have to confront."

Panetta's visit follows a United Nations decision on Friday to lift sanctions on Libya's central bank and its investments subsidiary, releasing tens of billions of dollars to the National Transitional Council, the BBC reported.

The Defense Secretary is also due to visit to what is believed to be the graveyard of 13 US sailors killed in 1804 during a mission to destroy pirate ships that had captured an American frigate in Tripoli's harbor, the AP reported.