Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Pool via Reuters
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, thrid from left, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, second from left, and Gen. Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, left, bow their heads during the wreath laying ceremony at the grave site of 13 U.S. Navy sailors at the Protestant Cemetery in Tripoli, Libya, Dec. 17.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Libyan Prime Minister Abd al-Rheem Al-Keeb greet one another during their joint news conference in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, Dec., 17.
TRIPOLI - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Tripoli Saturday, taking advantage of the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in an eight-month civil war to become the first Pentagon chief to set foot on Libyan soil.
But Panetta has indicated that the U.S. will give more time to gain control of the militias that overthrew Gadhafi before determining how to help the fledgling government.
"The last thing you want to do is to try to impose something on a country that has just gone through what the Libyans have gone through," said Panetta on Friday before landing in Tripoli.
"They've earned the right to try to determine their future. They've earned the right to try to work their way through the issues that they're going to have to confront," he said.