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    Gadhafi Capture is Top Priority for Rebels, Says Libyan Envoy

    A Libyan rebel fighter celebrates as they drive through Tripoli's Qarqarsh district, August 22, 2011
    A Libyan rebel fighter celebrates as they drive through Tripoli's Qarqarsh district, August 22, 2011

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    • Clottey interview with Ambassador Ali Aujali, Libya’s top envoy to the United States

    Peter Clottey

    Libya’s top envoy to the United States says the priority of the Transitional National Council (TNC) is to capture Moammar Gadhafi after rebel forces took control of over 70 percent of the capital, Tripoli.

    Ambassador Ali Aujali said the TNC needs Libya’s frozen assets to continue to provide what he described as the basic needs of citizens, including food and medicine.

    “We need to capture Gadhafi. This is the most important issue for us. The second thing is [that] we need to get some of our frozen money because the TNC needs this money badly for the stability and security of the Libyan people, for food [and] for medical treatment,” said Aujali.

    Libya’s Unity

    Some experts have expressed concern that the removal of Moammar Gadhafi will deepen tribal divisions, which they said could plunge Libya into chaos. Aujali disagrees.

    “There is no ethnic problem in Libya,” said Aujali.  “The tribes are not political parties [and] they haven’t played any political role in Libya since independence.  This issue is not [of] concern to any Libyan. You will not see that the Libyan tribes fighting each other for political issues. No, this is not going to happen.”

    Possible Retribution

    Some of Gadhafi’s sons have been reportedly captured by rebel forces. But reports from Tripoli Monday say shooting continued, with pockets of fighters loyal to the Libyan leader holding out in parts of the city.

    The clashes fueled speculation that the rebels will engage in revenge killings of Gadhafi loyalists and tribesmen who have been accused of committing human rights abuses and murder of civilians under Gadhafi’s rule. But Ambassador Aujali denies the speculation.

    “Not all of the Gadhafi tribes enjoyed all what the close family of Gadhafi enjoyed in Libya…. Many of them also lived normal lives,” he said.

    Building government institutions

    Critics say Gadhafi undermined government institutions during his four-decade rule. They also warned that the TNC faces enormous challenges building a democracy after the fall of the Libyan leader. Ambassador Aujali expressed similar sentiments but also optimism.

    “That needs some time.  I am sure with the help of democratic institutions and friendly countries - the United States and [friends in] Europe - they will contribute,” said Aujali. “Even from the start of the revolution, there were some American institutions that were in contact [with the TNC] and established relations.”

    The ambassador called for unity among Libyans and urged them to responsibly protect the revolution.

    “They are responsible to protect the democracy when we elect our own government,” said Aujali.

    Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama says Gadhafi’s government is coming to an end. Monday the president called on him to relinquish power.

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