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Libya - confusion reigns as new regime takes first steps

By Kim Sengupta in Benghazi

Libya has taken its first steps towards a new future following four decades of dictatorship, with the formation of a new administration in the half of the country which is out of Colonel Gaddafi's control.

The National Council set up in Benghazi, the ‘capital of Free Libya’, will present itself for recognition by the international community as emissaries of the people who will be representing the country from now on.

Former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil announced that he would head an interim government, with the suggestion that it has the backing of the US. He also said an agreement could be reached with the sons of Col Gaddafi to end the spiralling |violence.

But confusion and controversy surrounded the announcement after the official spokesman for the Council disputed that version of events, saying that Mr Abdel-Jalil had expressed purely personal views.

Abdul Hafiz Gouga added that there could be no accommodation with remnants of the regime because of “the huge human rights abuses” that had been committed. He insisted Mr Abdel-Jalil would only be a member of the Council rather than its head, adding that the organisation will have no |hierarchy with the members.

While the supposed new rulers of Libya grappled with the problems of politics, the conflict on the ground continued.

Rebels claimed that they had taken control of Zawiyah, in close proximity to Tripoli, and |straddling one of the main routes into the capital.

A crowd of around 500 gathered chanting “the people want the fall of the regime” and “this is our revolution”.

An attempt by forces loyal to the regime to recapture Zawiyah appeared to have failed.

According to reports from Tripoli, many areas in outlying districts had been abandoned by the security forces with activists setting up barricades and |arming themselves with homemade weaponry.

A commander in the Libyan Army who has defected said yesterday in Tripoli that although the Gaddafi forces had scaled down their operations, it was likely to be a temporary move and the rebels in the area needed reinforcements which are being sent from Benghazi.

Last night there were reports that loyalist Gaddafi forces were moving towards the town of Misurata, which had fallen to the rebels. Libya's former Interior Minster, Gen Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi, who defected last week, said a “massive” army convoy is heading towards the town.

The National Council, formed in Benghazi, insisted last night that they were “totally opposed” to any form of foreign intervention. Spokesman Mr Gouga stated: “Libyans will protect themselves and liberate Libya themselves.”

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