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Friends of Libya to applaud PM, seek reconstruction backing Add to ...

Stephen Harper will head to New York next Tuesday to bask in some of the international glow from apparent success in Libya at a summit designed to press leaders to help the country rebuild after dictatorship and war.

Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy have already taken victory laps around Benghazi, the heart of the Libyan rebellion, where grateful crowds greeted them like heroes on Thursday.

And though Mr. Harper didn’t get a share of that limelight, next Tuesday’s Friends of Libya meeting will give him a chance to underscore the significant Canadian part in the military intervention – just before the Commons votes on a three-month extension that the opposition NDP has vowed to oppose.

The meeting, to be held as world leaders descend on New York for the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly, will include leaders from NATO allies, Arab nations that supported and funded Libya’s former rebels, and a growing number of others.

But the conference of the Friends of Libya, which met in Paris two weeks ago just after Moammar Gadhafi’s forces lost Tripoli, is designed to encourage countries to commit to aiding the country’s interim government.

“I think there’s a desire to further the work that was done in Paris, and to decide what countries can actually do,” said a Canadian official. “The world can’t turn its attention from this now.”

Mr. Harper is expected to reassert his commitment to Libya.

NATO countries have agreed to extend the mission past its mandated end on Sept. 27 for another three months, although some allies, hoping to declare victory and avoid any hint the intervention could drag on, prefer a one-month extension. NATO is expected to include in the three-month extension a commitment to review the mission’s progress after a month, a source said.

Mr. Harper’s Conservatives will ask the Commons to vote on the extension next week.

Unlike most other leaders who attend the Friends of Libya conference, Mr. Harper won’t address the UN General Assembly later in the week. He will attend a high-level conference, also on Tuesday, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, tied to the effort to improve maternal and child health in poorer countries, an issue Mr. Harper championed as host of a G8 summit last year.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will deliver Canada’s speech in the second week of this year’s UN session.

Follow on Twitter: @camrclark

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