The AU, which frequently has been criticised for its ponderous reaction to events on its doorstep, said in a statement it was ready to support Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) in its efforts to build an inclusive government.
South Africa, the continent’s pre-eminent economic power which has a major say in AU policy, also said on Tuesday it would recognise the NTC, ending a long-standing relationship with Gaddafi.
At the United Nations in New York, Libya’s new flag flew for the first time since Gaddafi’s overthrow. U.S. President Barack Obama called for the last of the deposed leader’s loyalists to stop fighting, and said the U.S. ambassador would return to Tripoli.
“Those still holding out must understand — the old regime is over, and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya,” Obama said nearly a month after Gaddafi was driven from power with the help of a NATO-led bombing campaign.
He further pledged: “So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the NATO-led mission to protect them will continue.”
International leaders at a high-level UN conference congratulated Libyans — and themselves — for Gaddafi’s removal by NATO-backed rebels in a seven-month-old conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, welcoming Libya’s new leaders into the international community, said the Security Council had acted to protect the Libyan people from violence.
“Today, we must once again respond with such speed and decisive action — this time to consolidate peace and democracy,” Ban added.
Libya has reverted to the flag that was used from 1951 until 1977 when Gaddafi, who ruled for nearly 42 years, introduced a green flag for his Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or people’s republic.
Libya’s new rulers are still trying to dislodge well-armed Gaddafi loyalists from several towns and have yet to start a countdown toward writing a new constitution and holding elections.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, president of the NTC, promised a spirit of tolerance and reconciliation and appealed for international assistance to help his country emerge from conflict and build democracy.
Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said he expected Libya to name a new government within the next ten days, raising hopes of political progress in the fractured nation.
Earlier discussions to set up a long-promised, more inclusive interim government fell apart earlier this week. The NTC, still based in the eastern city of Benghazi, has faced questions about whether it can unify a country divided on tribal and local lines.
Gaddafi, who is on the run, taunted the Western alliance in a speech broadcast by a Syrian-based television station on Tuesday, saying: “The bombs of NATO planes will not last.”
Libyan troops are unable to defeat forces loyal to Gaddafi in Sirte, his birthplace, because the country’s new rulers are failing to supply them with enough ammunition, fighters near the front line said.
In the latest reverse in weeks of chaotic fighting over the coastal city, five anti-Gaddafi fighters were killed on Tuesday after they came under artillery fire.
The interim government has not stamped out the last pockets of resistance, prompting criticism over its lack of cohesion and raising fresh questions about whether it can run the oil-exporting country effectively.
Fighters making their way back from the front line said they were meeting heavy resistance from loyalists at a place called Khamseen, 50 km (31 miles) east of Sirte, and were unable to respond because they lacked the firepower.
“The military base is not supporting us with enough ammunition,” said Alnoufy Al-Ferjany, the commander of a military brigade called Martyrs of Alhawry.
In Tripoli, the EU Head of Mission said that Libya, a conduit to Europe for African migrants and a source of weapons for arms smugglers because of its war, will not be able to control all its borders for a long time due to the task’s complexity.
“The needs are very complex and the list is very long,” Jim Moran told Reuters in an interview.
“They’ve never really had the capability to properly control their borders. They probably won’t be able to have it for quite a long time to come, given the enormous challenges ahead.”
Libyan interim government forces stormed a house in Tripoli on Tuesday and arrested four brothers suspected of planning bomb attacks in the capital on behalf of Gaddafi, residents and witnesses said.
Weapons were confiscated in the operation in the al-Mansour neighbourhood by NTC forces, residents said.
Fighters armed with anti-aircraft artillery and assault rifles later opened fire on the house, destroying parts of the building and leaving the structure riddled with bullet holes, witnesses said.
Neighbours also joined in the assault and set fire to the house. Other homes nearby were damaged
The raids targeted four sons of Colonel Amer Moussa Zintani, an aide to Gaddafi, fighters said. They named the four as Abdel Bari, Ahmed, Moustafa and Youssef. Zintani’s whereabouts are not known, they said.
There were chaotic scenes outside the house as people who accused the men of killing their family members urged vigilante justice but were held back by NTC fighters.
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