After giving a speech that emphasized the Islamization of Libya, the head of the transitional government on Monday tried to reassure the Western powers who helped topple Moammar Gadhafi that the country's new leaders are moderate Muslims.
National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said Sunday that Islamic Sharia law would be the main source of legislation, that laws contradicting its tenets would be nullified and that polygamy would be legalized.
"I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims," said Abdul-Jalil, who added that he was dismayed by the focus abroad on his comments on polygamy. A State Department spokeswoman said the United States was encouraged that he had clarified his earlier statement.
Abdul-Jalil, meanwhile, ordered an inquiry to establish whether deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed in an execution-style slaying after being captured alive Thursday by fighters in his hometown of Sirte or whether he died in the crossfire as government officials have suggested.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated U.S. support for a full investigation but said "it's now time for Libya to move on." She endorsed the NTC's proposed timeline for the next steps in the democratic transition and said Libyans "with no blood on their hands" must be assured of "a place in the new Libya, and that they are safe and they are included."
She also called a Human Rights Watch report that dozens of Gadhafi supporters were found dead with bullet wounds in the back of the head and their hands tied "extremely disturbing." She said U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz raised Washington's concerns with the council and asked it to conduct another investigation.
Gadhafi's body has been on public display since Friday in a commercial refrigerator in the port city of Misrata, where residents lined up to see it.
Late Monday, an AP Television News crew saw vehicles driving away from the refrigerator, and AP reporters saw that it was empty. A military commander said the bodies were handed over to authorities for burial.
Ibrahim Beit al-Mal, a spokesman for the fighters, said he expected that the bodies of Gadhafi, his slain son Muatassim and former Defense Minister Abu Bakr Younis would be buried today in an unmarked grave in a secret location.
In Washington, Nuland said that the United States was encouraged that Abdul-Jalil clarified his earlier statements on Sharia law, but she hedged on an overall U.S. assessment of systems based on Sharia.
"We've seen various Islamic-based democracies wrestle with the issue of establishing rule of law within an appropriate cultural context," she said. "But the No. 1 thing is that universal human rights, rights for women, rights for minorities, right to due process, rights to transparency be fully respected."
Libya is a deeply conservative Muslim nation, with most women wearing head scarves or the all-encompassing niqab.