US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Libyan leader Mohammed Magarief at UN General Assembly. (REUTERS)
Libyan leader delivers personal apology for Benghazi attack
* Says attack on U.S. consulate does not express Libyans' sentiments
* Vows to bring perpetrators to justice
By Andrew Quinn
NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Mohammed Magarief personally apologized to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday for this month's attack on the consulate in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, and pledged his government would bring the perpetrators to justice.
"What happened on 11th of September towards these U.S. citizens does not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments towards the American people," Magarief, the head of Libya's national congress, told Clinton at a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York.
"Of course we ... express our great readiness to cooperate with the U.S. government in order to cooperate in the investigation and bring those perpetrators to justice."
Libyan and U.S. officials have pledged not to allow relations to be derailed by the attack on the consulate in Belghazi, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in what Washington described as a "terrorist attack."
"Through everything, (Magarief) and the Libyan government have been staunch partners to the United States," Clinton said at the start of her first face-to-face session with the Libyan leader, who was elected to head the ruling national assembly in August.
"Courage has been the defining characteristic of the Libyan people over these last two years. Courage to rise up and overthrow a dictator, courage to choose the hard path of democracy, courage to stand against violence and division in the country and the world," Clinton said.
Magarief said last week that about 50 people had been arrested in connection with the Benghazi attack, although the interior minister put the figure far lower. Magarief said some of those arrested were not Libyans and were linked to al Qaeda, which carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
The United States and Libya are both investigating the attack.
Clinton thanked Magarief for Libya's efforts thus far to probe the attack, which has raised sensitive questions among U.S. lawmakers about the security measures in place to protect the U.S. consulate and staff.
Libya's government has sought to impose order on armed groups that sprang up following the overthrow of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The country's military said it had removed the heads of two of the most powerful militias operating in Benghazi..