“We are and will be your friend and partner,” Panetta said at a news conference with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib.
“This new and free Libya can become an important security partner of the United States,” he said, adding that Washington was looking forward to building a close partnership.
“We stand ready to offer whatever assistance in the spirit of friendship and a spirit of mutual respect.”
But Panetta, who also met Defence Minister Osama Jouili, stressed that his talks in Tripoli did not involve military equipment.
“At this stage there was certainly no discussions involving arms or military equipment,” he said when asked about the type of security cooperation he envisioned.
Earlier he had told the travelling press, including an AFP correspondent, that his brief visit to Tripoli was to confer with the country’s new rulers on the security needs of their government.
“The purpose of my trip to Libya is to have an opportunity to look at that situation up close but to also pay tribute to the Libyan people to what they did in bringing (former leader Moamer) Kadhafi down and trying to establish a government for the future,” Panetta said.