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Libya's Interim Leader Says Opponents Abusing Chance for Peace

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Mahmud Jibril, number two in Libya's Western-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) addresses a news conference in Tripoli on September 8, 2011

Mahmud Jibril, number two in Libya's Western-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) addresses a news conference in Tripoli on September 8, 2011

One of Libya's interim leaders is calling for national unity but says supporters of Moammar Gadhafi are fostering the killing of Libyans by Libyans. Mahmoud Jibril's accusation comes as negotiations for the surrender of remaining Gadhafi strongholds were jarred by artillery attacks from pro-Gadhafi forces.

Interim leader Mahmoud Jibril said in Tripoli that the battle for Libya is not over, and warned about the challenges ahead. Among them, he said, is that pro-Gadhafi forces are exploiting efforts to find a negotiated solution to end the fighting.

Jibril spoke just hours after pro-Gadhafi fighters in Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, fired Grad rockets at NTC positions outside the town. Provisional authorities have given opponents in Bani Walid and in Sirte and Sabha until Saturday to lay down their arms. But Jibril said NTC forces have the right to "defend themselves" before the deadline expires.

It was the first public appearance in Tripoli by the NTC executive committee chief. When questioned why the interim authorities have been slow to move from their headquarters in Benghazi in eastern Libya, he dismissed the criticism, accusing others of playing political games.

Jibril also waved off questions about Mr. Gadhafi's whereabouts, saying it would not be wise to say if he did know where the former leader is.

Earlier in the day, the ousted leader said he was still in Libya, and urged his remaining supporters to rise up against the new powers, whom he dismissed as spies and mercenaries.

In an audio message aired on a Syrian station, Mr. Gadhafi maintained that the youth in Tripoli and "everywhere" are ready to carry out attacks against the "rats" and "germs" who he said are in the pay of NATO. He also downplayed reports that a convoy, thought to carry some of his loyalists and possibly gold and cash, had gone to Niger earlier in the week.

Mr. Gadhafi, not seen in public in months, has been on the run since forces loyal to the National Transitional Council captured Tripoli more than two weeks ago and now control an estimated 80 percent of the country.

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