Libya’s New Government seeks unity, Gaddafi loyalists hold out in three key towns

China has become the last member of the UN Security Council to recognize the National Transitional Council as Libya’s new government, making official what has already transpired on the ground: Libya’s rebels are no longer rebels at all. They now control almost all of Libya, including the capital, Tripoli.

In his first speech from Tripoli, the NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil, warned against factionalism and in-fighting, and called on the people to reject extremist groups. “We are a Muslim nation, with a moderate Islam, and we will maintain that. You are with us and support us – you are our weapon against whoever tries to hijack the revolution from right or left,” Abdul Jalil said.

Yet three key towns remain in the hands of the remnants of Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime: Sirte (Gaddafi’s birthplace), Bani Walid, and Sabha. There is already fierce fighting to control those towns, and residents have been warned to leave within 48 hours for their protection.

Fighters for the new regime's National Liberation Army arrive at Bani Walid. Image from CNN.

Many members of Gaddafi’s family have fled abroad. His son Saadi Gaddafi has taken refuge in Niger, while many of his relatives fled to Algeria. Gaddafi himself has not been seen in months, and it is unclear where he is hiding, though he has stated in audio messages released by a Syrian broadcaster that he is still in Libya and would rather fight on than flee. Also missing is Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who made some brief public appearances during the Battle of Tripoli. Gaddafi himself and several of his family members are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Already, businesses and Libyans are hoping the end of the war will bring an economic boom. Not only is Libya rich in oil, it was once a major tourist destination before Gaddafi’s takeover and there is hope the tourist industry could be reborn. Hadi Elayeb, head of the Horizons Travel Agency, told the Associated Press “Libya, in good hands, will be even better than Hong Kong.”

However, there are already tensions between different groups within the new regime. The US State Department claims it has heard reports of persecution of non-Muslims in Libya, and warns against “backsliding”. The commander of the National Liberation Army in Tripoli is an ex-al-Qaeda operative, according to CNN. There are conflicts emerging between military and political leaders about how to proceed. Rivalries are emerging between different regions and military units over who should take credit for victory and who should have the most influence in the new power structure. And all while the NTC struggles to establish its authority.

In spite of these tensions, the NTC plans to establish a functioning government in 10 days, and to hold an election within eight months. As ex-CIA director Michael V. Hayden put it,

“The Libyan experience has already demonstrated to the people and leaders of Syria and Yemen that revolutionary movements can persist, that seemingly powerful regimes can be brittle and that short-term repression does not guarantee a dictator’s long-term survival. A Libya that descends into chaos, however, would give these very same dictators a powerful argument as to why they must remain.”

Information primarily from BBC News.

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