Libya: rebel council scrambles to control Tripoli —and reassure West

Representatives of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) flew to Doha, Qatar, Aug. 24 to meet with officials from around the world, seeking $2.5 billion in emergency financing for an interim government. Mahmoud Jibril, the NTC’s number two leader behind President Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said in a press conference that the rebel government-in-waiting will soon move to Tripoli, and is eager for emergency funds ahead of upcoming Eid al-Fitr celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. Abdel Jalil was quoted in Italy’s Repubblica newspaper saying that he expects presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya by next April. “We want a democratic government and a just constitution,” he said. (CSM, Aug. 24)

Abdul Karim, general secretary and top security advisor to the TNC said five executive members of the rebel council have arrived in Tripoli to oversee the “complete liberation” of Libya. “Ninety percent of the capital is under the control of the council now,” he said. But he added: “As you know, we still have the south of Tripoli under the threat of the Qaddafi regime. [It] is now using shelling and sabotage….” (VOA, Aug. 24)

Nothing has been coming into Tripoli for 10 days now, so residents are surviving on what they have in their cabinets. Tap water has been shut off in many areas, causing a run on bottled water. Rumors are circulating that Qaddafi supporters have poisoned the municipal water supply. (NPR, Aug. 24)

Washington is seeking UN Security Council pressure on South Africa to end opposition to unfreezing $1.5 billion of Libyan assets to pay for emergency aid to the new regime. South African diplomats said the question of lifting UN sanctions requires broader approval of Libya’s transitional government. The South African government wants to wait until after an African Union summit this week before going ahead. (, Aug. 24)

The Moroccan regime is the latest to recognize the TNC as the legitimate government of Libya. Morocco’s foreign minister, Taib Fassi Fihri, arrived in the rebel capital of Benghazi, with a message from the Moroccan king, congratulating the rebels on their progress toward “realizing the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.” (, Aug. 24)

Paolo Scaroni, chief executive of the Italian energy giant ENI, said he is confident the company will be back in its “usual position of strength” in Libya within a year. Scaroni is to meet with Mahmoud Jibril and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Milan this week. Scaroni dismissed concerns that the political ties between Berlusconi and Qaddafi could jeopardize Italy’s relations with the NTC. He said: “It is not a problem of who is the prime minister, it is about the special relation between the countries, which has lasted for decades. It is in everyone’s interest to maintain it this way.”

ENI started operations in Libya in 1959 and was the largest single operator before fighting started. Before the crisis, Italy met some 23% of its oil needs from Libya, and more than 10% of its gas via the Greenstream pipeline that links the two countries under the Mediterranean. (FT, Aug. 25)

In a move unlikely to win the NTC much goodwill in the Arab world, Ahmad Shabani, founder of the new Democratic Party of Libya, appealed for political support from Israel. Shabani said: “We are asking Israel to use its influence in the international community to end the tyrannical regime of Qaddafi and his family.” Shabani is the son of a former cabinet minister under Libya’s king, who was deposed by Qaddafi in 1969. After the military coup, the Shabani family fled Libya and settled in London. He returned to Libya with the start of the uprising, but returned to London, saying his life was in danger. (Haaretz, Aug. 24)

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