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Leader: Libya victory 'within week'

Libya's de facto leader has said he is optimistic the former rebels will declare total victory over forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in less than a week, opening the way for a transitional government to be formed within a month.

Despite heavy resistance, revolutionary forces are closing in on Gaddafi's forces in the ousted dictator's home town of Sirte, the most important of two major cities yet to be cleared of supporters of the old regime.

"I hope that liberation will be declared in less than a week, after we free Sirte, and within less than a month we will form a transitional government and the youth and women will have a role in that," said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil.

Libya's new rulers have promised to declare victory after Sirte is captured and to name a new government that will guide the oil-rich North African nation to elections within eight months.

Ousted leader Gaddafi is still on the run and his supporters also hold the desert enclave of Bani Walid. But the new leaders say Sirte's capture will give them full control of the country's ports and harbours, allowing them to move forward with efforts to restore normality and establish a democracy.

Mr Abdul-Jalil made his assertion at a joint news conference with Tunisian Prime Minister Caid Essebsi, who is visiting the eastern city of Benghazi to restore the two countries' once-lucrative trade ties.

Before Libya's uprising broke out in mid-February, Libya and Tunisia had close ties, with millions of dollars in trade and tens of thousands of Tunisians working in Libya.

Several world leaders and dignitaries have travelled to the oil-rich North African nation as the international community rallies around the new rulers. Nato also has promised to continue its mission until Gaddafi forces no longer pose a threat to civilians.

Spain, however, has announced that it is bringing back the four F-18 fighter jets it sent to Libya to help enforce its no-fly zone because the governing National Transitional Council controls most of the country's airspace.

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