Dominique Soguel, AFP
Last updated: 24 August, 2011

Libya rebels set to move government to Tripoli

Libyan rebels have transferred their political leadership to the capital Tripoli from their base in Benghazi, a senior official of the National Transitional Council announced Friday.

“I declare the beginning and assumption of the executive committee’s work in Tripoli,” committee vice-chairman Ali Tahuni told a press conference. “Long live democratic and constitutional Libya and glory to our martyrs.”

Tarhuni, minister of oil and economics in the provisional administration, also named the holders of key cabinet posts including interior minister, information minister and infrastructure minister, as well as the head of security for Tripoli.

He added that the top rebel leadership — NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil and head of the executive committee Mahmud Jibril — would arrive in Tripoli as soon as the security situation permitted.

But Tarhuni stopped short of declaring the fall of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, saying that such an announcement would come from either Jalil or Jibril.

He vowed rebels would catch the strongman who ruled Libya for almost 42 years, adding that Kadhafi’s flight presented no obstacle to the running of the new, constitutional and democratic Libya.

“We are free. We can move about in our cities. He is the one in the sewer moving from sewer to sewer… We will catch him and once we capture him we will tell you how.”

He called on forces loyal to Kadhafi to lay down their arms, promising their safety and lawful treatment.

“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.”

Tripoli on Thursday was mostly under rebel control except for a few pockets of resistance where gunfire, explosions and sniper attacks remain common making life dangerous for residents.

In the absence of police, whom Tarhuni urged to return to work, stressing that security is essential to building the future of free Libya, rebels have set up checkpoints across the coastal city.

“Keeping security is very important. I call on police to go back to work. Without security and the ability of movement building the future of free Libya will be very difficult,” Tarhuni said.

On the diplomatic front, the oil minister said the NTC will honour all its promises and deals with other nations, “at least in this transitional period until Libyans chooose their government.”

Turning to his own portfolio, Tarhuni said the oil sector would resume work soon, starting with the reactivation of the oil refinery in the western town of Zawiyah.

He said the NTC has dispatched engineers to assess the major oil fields of Misra and Sarir as well as the installations in the oil port of Brega and that he expected the revival of Libya’s oil sector “very soon.”

Libya is the fourth largest producer in Africa — after Nigeria, Angola and Algeria — and one of the 20 largest producers in the world.

The North African nation’s crude oil output is particularly prized as it is low in sulphur and therefore easier to process.

The head of Italian energy group ENI, Paolo Scaroni, said Thursday following talks with Jibril and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that restarting oil production in Libya may take from six to 18 months.