TRIPOLI (Reuters) - U.S. Senator John McCain said on Thursday the fall of Muammar Gaddafi Libya was inspiring people all over world, including citizens of Syria, Iran, China and Russia, but he twinned his praise with a word of caution about Libya's many revolutionary armed groups, saying they had to be brought under control.
Leading the first visit to Tripoli by members of the U.S. Congress since Gaddafi's fall last month, McCain added at a media conference that U.S. investors were eager to do business in the oil-exporting OPEC member country but this would be difficult as long as fighting continued.
Many residents of the capital have demanded the return of the police and the departure of trigger-happy provincial armed bands who have based themselves in the city since they helped drive out Gaddafi last month, saying they fear the militias may be tempted to violence as they jockey for power.
"We believe very strongly that the people of Libya today are inspiring the people in Tehran, in Damascus, and even in Beijing and Moscow," said the Republican Senator from Arizona, a former presidential contender.
"They continue to inspire the world -- and let people know that even the worst dictators can be overthrown and be replaced by freedom and democracy."
"How they succeed will also be watched very carefully by the rest of the world."
Asked if the United States would cooperate with Libya in the event that it had an "Islamic government", he replied: "I think the U.S. will be prepared to cooperate with any government that the Libyan people decide. But obviously our relations will be affected by what kind of government that is."
"I do not claim to be an expert on Libya but I do know enough to know that the people of Libya are not in significant numbers interested in a radical Islamic extremist government such as we have in Iran or a couple of other countries. That's not the nature of the Libyan people."
McCain also said Libya's interim authorities, known as the National Transitional Council (NTC), had to continue trying to bring the country's many armed groups, whose habit of shooting in the air unnerves many in the capital, under control.
"It's important for the NTC to continue bringing the many armed groups in this city and beyond under the responsible control of its legitimate governing authority," McCain said.
"It's essential to continue working together to secure the many weapons and dangerous materials that the Gaddafi regime proliferated around this country," he said.
McCain, who represents Arizona, was accompanied by fellow Republicans Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Mark Kirk of Illinois.