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Governments hail Libya's new dawn

Governments from Britain to China hailed a new day for Libya following Muammar Gaddafi's death, and called on the new government to move swiftly to rebuild a shattered economy and restore order.

Amid the overwhelmingly positive response, there were concerns too about further political violence or a veering off into extremism in the wake of Gaddafi's near 42-year regime.

Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd said the international community needed to work with the governing transitional council to ensure Libya "does not become another Iran". During a visit to Tokyo he said: "The task of nation-building, the task of building Libya's democratic institutions, will be difficult, it will be complex, it will be hard, and there will be setbacks."

China, which initially refused to support the rebels or to criticise Gaddafi, moved to embrace the new government - updating its references to Gaddafi in state media from the "strongman" who defied the West to the "madman" whose time ran out.

"A new page has been turned in the history of Libya," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. "We hope Libya will rapidly embark on an inclusive political process, maintain ethnic solidarity and national unity, swiftly establish social stability, begin economic reconstruction, and allow the people to live in peace and happiness."

Mr Rudd, whose country supported the rebellion from its earliest days, said Gaddafi's death was "historic". Yet he also said that Iran's euphoria at deposing the Shah more than 30 years ago morphed into severe repression, and warned Libya's supporters needed to stay attentive and continue to promote openness.

In Europe, leaders sounded an optimistic note. "Finally the way is free for a political rebirth for peace," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, pronouncing herself "relieved and very happy" at the news of Gaddafi's death.

Britain and France, the powers that played a leading role in the military campaign that sealed Gaddafi's fate, said they hoped his death would open a more democratic chapter in Libya's history.

South Africa's government urged an "all-inclusive political process that will culminate in the holding of the first ever democratic elections". The African Union immediately lifted Libya's suspension after Gaddafi's death and said the interim leadership, the National Transitional Council, could occupy the country's seat, citing Libya's "exceptional circumstance".

The Vatican described the dictator's death as the end to a "long and tragic" fight to crush an oppressive regime. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "this is only the end of the beginning". He said: "The road ahead for Libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges. This a time for healing and rebuilding, for generosity of spirit, not for revenge."

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