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Bound for Paris summit, Harper 'pretty optimistic' about Libya's future

Libyan rebel soldiers loot weapons from an ex-Gaddafi military compound as they advance in Tripoli on Aug. 26, 2011.

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Stephen Harper will join his international counterparts at a meeting next week to discuss the future of Libya.

"Canada has been not just a part of the military mission in Libya, we have been a part of the international contact group since the beginning," Mr. Harper said Friday in this town on the edge of Kluane National Park, the final stop on his summer tour of the Arctic.

The meeting in Paris, which was organized by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, will mark the first time the leaders of the countries involved in the international effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi have met since the military mission commended in March.

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"This will be an opportunity for all leaders to get together and look at the plans and co-ordinate the plans for the peaceful development of Libya going forward," said Mr. Harper. "While there are obviously going to be some significant challenges I remain pretty optimistic in that regard."

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The international conference of the so-called Friends of Libya, which is expected to include more than 30 countries – China, Russia and Brazil among them – will be held on Sept. 1, the day in 1969 that Colonel Gadhafi came to power.

The decision to attend talks on the future of the country comes as Canada accredited one of the Libyan Transitional Council's diplomats as Libya's new representative in Ottawa.

The Foreign Affairs Department formally accredited Abubaker Karmos as interim charge d'affaires on Thursday, representing the National Transitional Council of Libya. The department says Canada will "interact" with the council as Libya's government until new elected representatives are chosen.

Canada closed the Libyan embassy and turfed all pro-Gadhafi diplomats earlier this month, a move meant to emphasize Ottawa's support for the rebels in that country.

The council's flag has now been raised with other national flags in the lobby of the Lester Pearson building, the Foreign Affairs headquarters.

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The department says the Canadian embassy in Tripoli will reopen when security permits.

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