Libya’s NTC says no Tripoli move until “liberation”

Filed on September 16, 2011

BENGHAZI - Libya’s interim government said on Wednesday it would not move to Tripoli until the country is fully “liberated”, contradicting a pledge to do so by the end of this week.

The National Transitional Council said last month it would set up an administration in Tripoli as part of plans to build up democratic institutions and move towards holding elections.

“We will stay in Benghazi until the liberation of Libyan cities and then, after, we will make an announcement and move to Tripoli,” NTC vice chairman and spokesman, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, told Reuters.

NTC forces are massed outside three main last bastions of support for Gaddafi — Bani Walid, 180 km (110 miles) south of Tripoli, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast and Sabha, deep in the southern desert.

Fighters loyal to Gaddafi in Bani Walid are putting up stiffer resistance than expected and pro-Gaddafi forces this week attacked an oil refinery near Sirte.

The chairman of the NTC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, arrived in Tripoli on Saturday for the first time since his allies chased Gaddafi out of the city, in a move that most Libyans saw as preceding a full transfer of power to the capital.

Analysts have said an NTC move to Tripoli as soon as possible is important for building its credibility and avoiding a power vacuum.

Abdel Jalil has been running the provisional administration from the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that overthrew Gaddafi in late August.

The NTC has drawn up a “roadmap”, which sets out plans for a new constitution and elections over a 20-month period, that is supposed to start once the interim rulers declare Libya’s “liberation”.

Hafiz Ghoga said NTC officials would now meet Abdel Jalil in Benghazi on Sunday to decide whether there was a need to change the roadmap and start the 20-month timetable before liberation.

It is unclear exactly how the disparate groups which have taken over the country will define what constitutes “liberation”.

Some officials say taking control of the whole country is the measure, while others say capturing or killing Gaddafi is also necessary.

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