Schwarzenberg to meet Libyan rebels, deliver Czech NGO aid for field hospitals

Czech Foreign Minister off to Libya along with Kč 2.5 mln worth of medical equipment destined for field hospitals in rebel-held area

Society|Foreign Affairs
Brian Kenety | 29.06.2011
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is due to meet the Libyan rebels political leaders today, but there’s no word yet on official Czech recognition of the NTC

The Czech NGO People in Need (Člověk v tísni) has secured Kč 2.5 million worth of medical equipment destined for a field hospital in the Libyan city of Daphnia, in the western Misrata region where rebels say Colonel Moamer Gaddafi’s forces last week dropped bombs that killed dozens of fighters and civilians.

People in Need director Šimon Pánek told Czech Radio’s Radiožurnál program that in besieged Libyan cities food supplies are running low and overcrowded hospitals lack both the trained staff and medicines to handle the influx of wounded and sick people.

“The aid effort that we are conducting and which is financed by [Czech] state agencies and People in Need will go to the International Medical Corps (IMC), our partner medical organization, which is already on the scene and has transport and logistical capabilities,” Pánek said. The field hospital operated by IMC is situated some 30 kilometers west of the rebel-controlled port city of Misurata. On its return flight, the gov’t plane will transport Libyan children for treatment in Czech medical facilities.

The goods include portable medical equipment like defibrillators, hand-held resuscitators, ventilators, ultra sound scanners, suction devices and splints, Panek said. He stressed that “even if it is relatively little help” all the items are things the IMC had specifically requested, and he was pleased People in Need could provide a “talior-made” list of equipment.

Schwarzenberg off to Libya

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), who is due to meet representatives of the National Transition Council (NTC), the political body of the Libyan rebels opposed to Gaddafi’s s regime, during his visit to Libya on Wednesday, is flying on the same government plane carrying the Kč 2.5 million worth of medical equipment — of which Kč 2 million comes from government sources and the remainder from People in Need. On its return flight, the Czech plane will transport Libyan children for treatment in Czech medical facilities.

The center-right Czech government has looked at practical ways of helping the rebels but has stopped short of offering them recognition. Nearly two weeks ago, Schwarzenberg met in Prague with an NTC representative, Mohammed Al-Allagi, in the first such top-level meeting between a Czech official and a representative of the Libyan rebels.

Schwarzenberg will be accompanied by Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Hruška and lower house Foreign Committee Chairman David Vodrážka (Civic Democrats, ODS). During the visit of Al-Allagi, who is responsible for justice and human rights within the fledgling rebel administration, Vodrážka said the Benghazi-based NTC is “the only alternative” to the Gaddafi regime. ‘As we maintain that the dictator has lost legitimacy, it is necessary for us to start intensively communicate with the rebels.’

“As we maintain that the dictator has lost legitimacy, it is necessary for us to start intensively communicate with the rebels,” he said, as cited by the Czech News Agency (ČTK), which noted that Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) has said his government is “considering” establishing contacts with the NTC.

As of Tuesday, 21 countries had publicly recognized the NTC as legitimately representing the Libyan people while others have implicitly recognized it as a political force — for example by visiting its leaders in its Benghazi stronghold, or hosting them for talks, Reuters reported.

Thus far, among the European Union member states only Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Bulgaria have recognized the NTC as Libya’s official representative. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described it as “the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people during this interim period” in June 9 comments to journalists in Abu Dhabi. 

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