Libya’s NTC claims vital victory


Libya’s new rulers on Wednesday declared victory in the battle for the key southern city of Sabha, one of the last strongholds of forces loyal to deposed despot Moamer Kadhafi. Officials of the National Transitional Council, Libya’s interim ruling body, said there were only small pockets of resistance in Sabha, the country’s largest desert city and home to a strategically vital military base.
The United States prepared, meanwhile, to raise the US flag over its reopening embassy in Tripoli, after President Barack Obama met Libya’s new leader in New York and said the world would stand with his country as it consolidates freedom.
“We are in complete control of the city of Sabha. Everybody, including (those who were) pro-Kadhafi, are now with the revolution,” said Abdelmajid Seif Ennasr, who represents the NTC in Sabha. The NTC’s fighters were only encountering “resistance from some individuals here and there,” he told AFP.
“Sabha is totally under the control of the revolutionaries,” said Mohammed Wardugu, the Benghazi spokesman of the “Desert Shield Brigade” that is fighting in the region. Despite the setbacks, the fugitive Kadhafi told his remaining loyalists in Libya that the new regime is only temporary, in his latest comments aired on Syrian-based Arrai television, Kadhafi.
“What is happening in Libya is a charade which can only take place thanks to the (NATO-led) air raids, which will not last forever,” said Kadhafi, who has been at large since NTC forces overran Tripoli on August 25.
“Do not rejoice and don’t believe that one regime has been overthrown and another imposed with the help of air and maritime strikes,” he added.
The recording was the first by Kadhafi since September 8, when he denied reports he had fled to Algeria or Niger.
As Libya’s new rulers were feted in New York, however, interim prime minister Mahmud Jibril said the country’s first formal government since Kadhafi’s ousted would be announced within seven to 10 days.
“Most of the work has been done. It is a question of the number of ministries and the location of the ministries,” said Jibril, noting that “for a country which was absent from any democratic process for 42 years… what’s taking place is natural”.
His statement came after a special summit at which world leaders promised to help the new government and President Obama announced the US embassy would be reopening and the ambassador, Gene Cretz, returning for Thursday’s flag-raising ceremony.
And in another sign that Kadhafi’s days on the run are numbered, the African Union, which had long held out against recognising the NTC as Libya’s new rulers, on Tuesday finally announced it was doing so.