|The first contact group designated with planning a democratic Libya post Gadaffi was held in Qatar [Reuters]
The International Contact Group, tasked with the planning of a democratic Libya after Muammar Gaddafi, will meet in Abu Dhabi for their third meeting since the organisation was launched in Qatar two months ago.
The talks in the UAE capital on Thursday come after Barack Obama, the US president, said that NATO's mission in Libya was forging "inexorable" advances that meant it was only a matter of time before Gaddafi's departure.
Due to take part are two dozen countries, including key NATO allies Britain, France and Italy, as well as delegates from the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
The UAE also plans to invite Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia, US officials said.
As the military, political and economic pressure mount on Gaddafi to step down, the group will discuss "what a post-Gaddafi Libya ought to look like," a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Such a place should be a "unified state, (a) democratic state with a smooth transition," the official said.
A second official said the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) had set up shadow ministries in its base in eastern Libya and named a civilian to head military in preparation for assuming power when Gaddafi falls.
The international community has begun to talk among themselves and with the rebel administration about how to offer security and basic services to the people of Tripoli when the Libyan capital is freed, he said.
No international consensus
However, the official added that Washington cannot say whether the NTC "is ready to assume complete control," and cautioned that there is no international consensus over when Gaddafi should leave power, where he should go, or even whether he should leave Libya.
"And we in the international community have stepped up our effort as well to be able to be in a position to provide them (the opposition) whatever kind of assistance they might need," the second official said.
A third US administration official said the Contact Group - which includes NATO allies leading the military action against Gaddafi as well as Arab partners and the United Nations - will discuss the opposition's stark need for funds.
The opposition has complained that little has happened since the group last met on May 5 in Rome when Hillary Clinton, US secretary of State, and her partners agreed on a new fund to aid Libya's rebels and promised to tap frozen assets of Gaddafi's regime.
"We understand the (NTC's) frustration but again the international community isn't going to let the (NTC) go under financially," the official said on the condition of anonymity.
The group will on Thursday debate a "mechanism" through which aid "can flow in a transparent and accountable manner," the official said.
The first official said the United States is optimistic "some support" will flow from the Contact Group meeting in Abu Dhabi but was non-committal about whether Congress was ready to free up assets frozen in the United States for the rebels.
The third official said "yes" when asked whether the United States would urge Arab countries to offer more funds to the Libyan opposition.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday for the meeting.
"With each meeting, international pressure is growing and momentum is building for change in Libya," Clinton's spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told the accompanying press.
First NTC oil sale
US officials said meanwhile that a Liberian-flagged tanker was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday at Barbers Point, Hawaii, with 1.2 million barrels of Libyan crude sold by the NTC, apparently the first such oil delivery by the opposition.
It was not immediately clear how much the NTC would earn from the sale.
Weeks of NATO-led air strikes have so far failed to force Gaddafi out, but Obama nevertheless insisted in Washington that the Libyan leader was on borrowed time after four decades of iron-fisted rule.
Nuland said that participants in Abu Dhabi will also discuss political unrest in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain as well as efforts to sustain support for the democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.