Libya: TNC oil minister assumes control in Tripoli; AU won’t recognize regime

Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) suffered a setback Aug. 26 when the African Union, in an emergency summit at Addis Ababa, refused to recognize it as the country’s legitimate government. The TNC has been recognised by more than 40 countries, but divisions remain within the AU. South African President Jacob Zuma, one of only three African heads of state to attend the summit, opposed recognition. He said that the AU would not recognize the TNC as long as fighting continues. The AU has called for an “all-inclusive transitional government” for Libya, that could involve some Qaddafi officials. That proposal was rejected by the TNC. (The Independent, Aug. 27)

The TNC says control has been established over all of Tripoli, and it is preparing to move its leadership there from Benghazi. Until President Mustafa Abdel Jalil arrives after the security situation improves, Ali Tarhuni, the TNC’s oil minister, is assuming executive functions in Tripoli. “I declare the beginning and assumption of the executive committee’s work in Tripoli,” Tarhuni told a press conference in the capital. “Long live democratic and constitutional Libya and glory to our martyrs!” Tarhuni appealed to Qaddafi loyalist still in arms: “Put your weapons down and go home. We will not take revenge. Between us and between you is the law. I promise you will be safe.”

The UN Security Council released $1.5 billion of frozen Libyan assets to be used for emergency aid after the US and South Africa ended a dispute over the funds. The assets were held in US banks, but South Africa blocked release on the Security Council’s sanctions committee, saying it would imply recognition of the NTC. The last-minute accord with South Africa meant that Washington did not press for an immediate Security Council vote on recognition. The new request made no mention of the NTC—only that the funds would be directed through the “relevant authorities.” (Middle East Online, Aug. 26)

As the AU met in Addis Ababa, Libya was formally readmitted to the Arab League at a foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo, attended by NTC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril. The League suspended Libya after Qaddafi began his efforts to crush the opposition in March.

The situation in Tripoli remains precarious, with food, electricity and even water in short supply. The city’s water normally comes from what Qaddafi hailed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”—the Great Man-Made River, which moves water from deep wells in the desert to Tripoli and other parts of western Libya. This system has been down for more than a week. Residents have started hauling in water in tanker trucks, distributing it outside mosques.

TNC forces are now advancing on the town of Beni Walid, 100 miles southwest of Misrata, where senior figures from the Qaddafi regime are believe to be hiding after fleeing Tripoli. (NPR, Bloomberg, Aug. 27)

See our last posts on Libya and the struggle in North Africa.

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  1. Qaddafi cuts off water to Tripoli?
    If this CNN report is to be believed, Qaddafi intentionally sabotaged his own “Eighth Wonder of the World” to cut off the water to Tripoli. He obviously cares deeply about the Libyan people.

    Much of Tripoli’s water comes to the capital through a 1,700-kilometer pipeline from an aquifer deep in the Sahara desert, an area that is apparently still under the control of pro-Gadhafi forces. Basically, they have sabotaged the flow. The massive holding tanks to the south of Tripoli are said to be virtually empty and 60% of the city’s residents are without mains water. Many have to rely on bottled or trucked water; others are using wells.

    The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said Tuesday that engineers were working to repair the pumping stations that bring in water from the desert, but it wasn’t clear how long it would take to restore service. “The humanitarian situation in Libya demands urgent action,” he said.