(For more news on unrest in the Middle East, see EXTRA)
Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Libya will be a nation that follows the the rule of law, respects the tenets of Islam, and rejects extremism, the head of the transitional leadership said.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, spoke to thousands of cheering Libyans yesterday in central Tripoli, his first public address in the former stronghold of Muammar Qaddafi.
“We are seeking to establish a state of law, a state of prosperity, and Islamic Sharia will be the basis of legislation,” he said, according to video broadcast on Al Arabiya.
Meanwhile, Qaddafi, speaking from hiding, called on Libyans to keep up the fight against “colonialism,” according to a Syrian-based satellite television station.
As the former rebels demonstrated their control of the capital, their fighters pushed toward Sirte, the coastal birthplace of Qaddafi that remains controlled by his loyalists. The council-backed fighters cut off the last escape route, south toward the desert town of Waddan.
Fighters from Misrata, in a convoy of 300 pickup trucks, met up Sept. 11 with other opposition fighters already in Waddan, said rebel fighter Farouk Ben Ahmeda.
“It was like Mad Max,” he said. “We drove through the desert. There was not much opposition.”
That would leave Sirte’s loyalists cut off from southern Libya, with rebel forces already controlling routes the east and west from the city on the country’s main coastal highway.
A rebel commander, Omar Elewaieb, said forces are preparing for a renewed assault on Sirte in the next few days, while negotiations seek the surrender of the city.
Some loyalists already have fled south to neighboring Niger, where a convoy including Qaddafi’s son Saadi, who led a unit in the Libyan army, arrived Sept. 11.
Niger welcomed the Libyans for “humanitarian reasons,” while those who are guilty of “serious crimes” may be extradited, the country’s justice minister, Marou Amadou said yesterday in an interview with Voix du Sahel, a Niamey-based radio station.
China yesterday became the latest country to recognize the transitional council as the “ruling authority,” the official Xinhua news service reported. The International Monetary Fund said Sept. 11 it also recognized the NTC as holding Libya’s seat at the Washington-based fund.
The rally yesterday was the largest in Tripoli since rebels took the capital August 21. Abdel Jalil proclaimed a “free Libya.”
“No retribution, no taking matters into your own hands and no oppression,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I hope that the revolution will not stumble because of any of these things.”
Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, head of the council’s executive committee, said Sept. 11 in a televised press conference in the capital that bringing rebel fighters under civilian control was a priority.
The Military Council, led by former general Suleiman Mahmoud, had already agreed to fall under NTC jurisdiction and he was waiting to hear from other rebel commands across Libya, he said.
The conflict to end Qaddafi’s 42-year rule has reduced oil output, the country’s main source of revenue. Libyan crude production slumped to 60,000 barrels a day in July from 1.7 million barrels in January, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
Forces loyal to Qaddafi staged twin attacks on Libya’s largest refinery at Ras Lanuf yesterday, killing at least 15 guards, the Associated Press reported, citing Hamid al-Hasi, the commander of opposition forces in eastern Libya.
An oil tanker, the Newlead Avra, was sailing yesterday to the Libyan port of Mellitah, a sign the nation may be resuming energy exports, ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Libya will be able to restore most of its oil production within six months and resume full output within 18 months, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report yesterday.
Brent oil futures surged as high as $127.02 a barrel in April following the halt of Libya output. Prices have since dropped 12 percent, with Brent oil for October settlement declined 52 cents to $112.25 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange yesterday.
A brief message attributed to Qaddafi, in which he vowed to fight on and accused the opposition of surrendering the country’s oil to foreign interests, was read yesterday on Syria’s Arrai TV.
“We can’t give our oil to the French people to get benefit from it, we can’t hand Libya to colonialism,” Qaddafi said, according to Mishan Jabouri, owner of Arrai, which has broadcast several of Qaddafi messages since he went into hiding.
--With assistance from Alaric Nightingale and Michelle Wiese Bockmann in London, Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon, Molly Peterson and Terry Atlas in Washington and Mariam Fam in Cairo. Editors: Terry Atlas, Steven Komarow
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