But there was no doubt about what the death would mean at least in one sense in Libya: The upcoming political process won't be overshadowed by a protracted trial that might have stoked internecine tensions and given Gadhafi a platform to distract from pressing transitional matters with more of his signature rambling tirades.
"This will mean that everyone in Libya can exhale," said Lisa Anderson, president of the American University in Cairo and a noted Libya expert. She predicted a period of relaxed tensions that would give the National Transitional Council, which has been Libya's de facto ruling authority since August, space to tackle "the challenges of constructing genuine public debate about the future of the country and deciding how to deal with the stalwarts of the old regime."
But pressures also are expected to mount on the council, which has been seen as lacking credibility and cohesion, because it will no longer have the ongoing search for Gadhafi as an excuse for what critics call its sluggish, uncoordinated handling of transitional affairs so far.
The council's mostly self-appointed leadership is riven with regional, tribal and ideological divisions, and Gadhafi's death, analysts warned, wasn't a silver bullet for serious problems that have yet to be resolved. Chief among those problems is the disarming and reintegration of thousands of revolutionary militiamen who are more loyal to individual commanders than to a central government.
It's now up to the National Transitional Council to prove it can move beyond infighting and form a credible, internationally supported caretaker body to secure and guide Libya through the drafting of a constitution and preparing for elections, said Shashank Joshi, a London-based analyst who follows Libya for the Royal United Services Institute.
Joshi said Gadhafi's death would lead to a momentary bump in unity among transitional council leaders and could boost their credibility before the public, especially if they fulfill their promises to step aside in favor of more popular figures. But the outlook is less rosy for the long term.
"Following that, some of these divisions will come back to the fore because they exist independently of Gadhafi and will outlive him," Joshi said.
(Special correspondent al Fitory reported from Sirte, Libya. Allam reported from Cairo. Contributing to this story were Lesley Clark and Nancy A. Youssef in Washington, Shashank Bengali in Kabul, Afghanistan, special correspondent Rifaat Ahmed in Cairo and special correspondent Mohamed Albuaishi in Tripoli.)
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