Paris, France (AP) - World leaders lined up behind Libya's new de facto administration Thursday and a U.N.-led effort to stabilize the country after decades under Moammar Gadhafi's rule.
But the struggle for Libya's future is not over and NATO's military operation will continue as long as needed to protect civilians, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
Leaders and envoys from 60 nations and world bodies such as the United Nations and NATO met in Paris for talks with Libya's rebel-led National Transitional Council to map out Libya's future after Gadhafi's ouster.
"We cannot afford a failed pariah state on Europe's borders," Cameron said. "We will all lose if the Arab Spring gives way to a cynical winter of repression."
There were also warnings about Libya's continued instability, its tribal tensions and ravaged infrastructure.
Libyans at Thursday's meeting "stressed the point that there is no cease-fire, that there is still a military threat from Gadhafi. They also expressed concern about the (possible) use of chemical weapons," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said.
A second delegation also confirmed that Libyan envoys had raised at the meeting their fears that Gadhafi loyalists may have access to chemical weapons. However, Western government arms experts believe that loyalists forces no longer have the hardware to deploy the weapons, after repeated NATO-led airstrikes on military targets.
The group also agreed to try to release billions in frozen assets linked to Gadhafi in banks around the world, Sarkozy said. The United Nations has already unblocked $6 billion from banks in the U.S., Britain and France.
"We are committed to returning to the Libyans the monies of yesterday for the building of tomorrow," he said.
The leaders insisted on the need for Libyans themselves to lead the way forward and to avoid the lessons learned in Iraq, where the fall of Saddam Hussein was followed by years of sectarian violence.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for the Security Council to make a decision quickly on deploying a civilian mission to stabilize Libya. He said dozens of world leaders at a conference in Paris on Thursday agreed that the United Nations would now take the lead on assisting Libya's new leadership.
He called for "prompt action" to "deploy a civilian mission as rapidly as possible."
Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said, "We have to make sure that we fulfill our side of the deal - we must have security in Libya, tolerance and forgiveness must be promoted, the state of law must be respected."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who stayed out of the NATO mission - rallied behind the international effort to help Libya on Thursday, and offered "our experience of a dictator in Germany and how to overcome the past peacefully." She also offered help rebuilding hospitals and transport and a robust police force.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said his country "has offered carabinieri to help train the police and help protect the borders."
The final statement from the meeting is a global embrace of the de facto Libyan leadership:
"The participants were pleased to welcome Libya's return to full participation in the international community," it says.
The talks focused on ways to keep Libya together and build a new democracy after months of civil war and decades of dictatorship. The meeting also aimed to reconcile diplomatic differences over the NATO-led airstrikes that helped oust Gadhafi.
Russia, which had criticized the NATO operation, gave a boost to the meeting by recognizing the rebels as Libya's interim leadership hours before the talks started.
Thursday's talks aren't expected to dramatically change the game in Libya, at least not in the short term. They're largely an opportunity for the Libyans to make their case for rebuilding their nation and to gain global support. Many countries are claiming credit for Gadhafi's ouster - and jockeying to re-claim Libya's oil.