The new US envoy to Tripoli vowed on Monday to follow the line of murdered ambassador Chris Stevens and support Libya as the two states work to bring the militants behind the September 11 attack to justice.
Veteran diplomat and Arabic speaker Laurence Pope, the new charge d’affaires at the embassy, had his first meeting with Libya’s acting foreign minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz.
“We discussed strengthening the relationship between the United States and Libya, and our shared commitment to investigate the tragic events of September 11 in Benghazi,” he told journalists after the meeting.
Stevens, killed along with three other Americans when armed men invaded and torched the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, was the first US diplomat to be killed on active duty since 1979.
The fallout from the attack has developed into a toxic political issue as Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama wage an all-out battle in a tight race to the November 6 presidential election.
The political landscape is also shifting in Tripoli where the national assembly elected on Sunday former diplomat Ali Zeidan as prime minister, tasking him with crafting a new government within two weeks.
“An investigation continues with the participation of both countries and the United States is determined to bring the terrorists responsible for this attack to justice,” Pope said.
He also paid tribute to Stevens, who was an early backer of the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed long-time Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, and vowed to advance his legacy.
“From the beginning, Ambassador Stevens worked tirelessly to support the struggle of the Libyan people for liberation from dictatorship, and to build a democratic state of institutions and the rule of law,” Pope said.
“The United States remains deeply committed to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people as they build a sovereign, stable and economically prosperous nation. We will continue on the path that Ambassador Stevens traced for us.”
Pope will have a tricky job, taking over at a time when staffing at the Tripoli embassy has been reduced for security reasons and the US administration has yet to decide whether to reopen a consulate in Benghazi.