UNITED NATIONS — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will ask Parliament to extend the country’s military mission in Libya for three more months.
Harper confirmed that plan after telling the United Nations that Canada will stay the course in rebuilding a post-Gadhafi Libya.
Harper says the fact that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi is still at large means the mission isn’t finished.
“We will participate in the mission until armed threats from Gadhafi forces are eliminated from the country,” Harper told reporters.
“We will ask Parliament to extend the mission by three months, but I’m going to be frank with you in saying I’m pretty optimistic we’ll achieve our objectives well before that timeline.”
The prime minister was attending a high-level meeting on Libya attended by dozens of nations and the North African country’s new governing authority, the National Transitional Council.
Harper told the gathering Canada has taken decisive diplomatic, humanitarian and military action to protect and help the people of Libya in the fight to oust Gadhafi and to encourage a transition to democracy.
“Canada has been at the forefront of international efforts to protect civilians in Libya against the oppressive Gadhafi regime and provide them with humanitarian assistance,” Harper said.
“Canada will continue to support the people of Libya, standing ready to promote effective governance and institutions, a secure environment founded on the rule of law, economic development and prosperity, and respect for human rights.”
Canada is prepared to support stabilization and reconstruction in a post-Gadhafi era by supporting the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, he said.
Canada has contributed fighter jets and a warship to the six-month, NATO-led mission to buttress the NTC and protect civilians from Gadhafi, who was driven from power in August but remains at large.
Canada has also contributed about $10.6 million in humanitarian assistance to Libya.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the NTC president, thanked the international community for coming together to help wrest his country from the control of four decades of Gadhafi’s iron-fisted rule.
“The road before us is still long … our needs are many,” he added, noting that 25,000 Libyans died in the struggle to oust the dictator.
Harper started his day by meeting Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.
The prime minister is at the UN for talks on the future of Libya and an accountability session on the signature child- and maternal-health initiative that he championed at last year’s G8 in Muskoka, Ont.
An aide to Harper said he and Ban had a wide-ranging discussion that addressed the need for continued global momentum and Canadian leadership on the Third World health initiative, the developments in North Africa and the Middle East, and the need for UN reform and enhanced accountability.
The secretary-general thanked Harper for his leadership on maternal, child and newborn health and for his co-chairmanship of the UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.
Harper reiterated his opposition to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to seek official UN recognition later this week.
“I think it’s possible that it could be counterproductive,” Harper said. “If the Palestinian Authority is serious about establishing a sovereign state, the method to do that is not a declaration here at the United Nations, it’s to get back at the negotiating table and negotiate peace with Israel.”
On Libya, world leaders are looking at how to support the NTC, as it moves into the rebuilding phase and Gadhafi remains at large.
Harper said Canada hasn’t determined how it will assist the UN rebuilding but said Canada would likely focus on the development of the democratic process and disarmament.
“The presence of some of the disturbing weapons in that country is an area we want to help on.”
Canadian companies want to participate in the economic recovery, Harper added.
U.S. President Barack Obama credited the Libyan people for successfully fighting for their liberation.
“It was Libyan men, women — and children — who took to the streets in peaceful protest, faced down the tanks and endured the snipers’ bullets,” Obama said.