TRIPOLI, Libya — The U.S. ambassador to Libya expressed confidence in the country's new rulers Thursday as the American Embassy reopened in the capital months after it closed during the fighting to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
Ambassador Gene Cretz acknowledged the North African nation faces many challenges as Gadhafi remains on the run and fighting with his loyalists continues on three fronts.
"The next few months will be critical as Libyans lay the groundwork for a pluralistic democracy that respects the rights of all of its citizens," he said in remarks before the flag was raised in front of his residence in Tripoli, which will serve as the interim embassy. "The United States and the international community are ready to help in any way we can."
The ceremony occurred on the same day that Tunisian authorities jailed Libya's former prime minister, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, on charges of illegal entry after he was found without a visa while trying to flee across the border to Algeria. Libya's transitional government said it would ask Tunisia to send al-Mahmoudi home to face justice.
The American Embassy's main compound was attacked and severely damaged by a pro-Gadhafi mob after an airstrike in May. Embassy staff had already been evacuated as unrest spread after the uprising began in mid-February.
Also Thursday, fighters from Misrata said in a statement that they are in control of chemical weapons near Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte — one of the three areas where loyalists continue to put up stiff resistance. They said they are safeguarding any possible chemical weapons until the arrival of a U.N. team, which will oversee their transfer.
Libya's new rulers are struggling to consolidate their control over the entire country a month after revolutionary forces seized control of the capital, Tripoli, and brought down Gadhafi's regime. There is concern that as long as Gadhafi and other top regime figures are not captured, they could cause significant instability.
The Canadian general commanding NATO's mission in Libya said that isolated groups of Gadhafi supporters continue to be a threat to local people.