TRIPOLI, Libya — In a historic visit punctuated by celebratory gunfire and cries of "God is great," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton toured the Libyan capital Tuesday to pledge continued U.S. support for a transitional government struggling to consolidate control over the war-ravaged country.
Clinton, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Libya since the ouster of autocratic leader Moammar Gadhafi in August, offered Libyan leaders practical and financial help on a wide range of fronts, from rebuilding the economy to caring for the war-wounded to rounding up thousands of anti-aircraft missiles that have gone missing.
But she also warned of lingering dangers, including the risk of prolonged resistance by Gadhafi loyalists as well as the possibility that democracy could be usurped before it has time to take root.
"We are still at the point where liberation has not yet been claimed because of ongoing conflict," Clinton said at a joint news conference with Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister of Libya's interim national council. "There has to be a resolution before many of these programs can be put into action."
As she spoke, there were fresh reminders of the challenges the interim government faces it seeks to bring order to the battered country after decades of dictatorship. In the Gadhafi stronghold city of Sirte, pro-Gadhafi forces repelled new assaults by revolutionary militias seeking to eliminate one of the last holdouts of the former government. In Tripoli, control over parts of the city remained divided among rival militia groups, some of whom have resisted disarming and returning to civilian life.
Clinton said the U.S. and Libyan governments remain focused on restoring security and pledged that NATO warplanes would continue to back the interim government's military while fighting continued. She acknowledged that U.S. officials were concerned that Gadhafi could cause significant problems as long as he is at large.
"We want to do everything we can to prevent him from causing trouble for the new Libya," Clinton said.