Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said the 'new' Libya does not wish to be isolated [AFP]

The leader of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) has said the new government will hold free elections within eight months and pledged to put Muammar Gaddafi on trial in the country rather than an international court.

In comments published on Wednesday in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper, rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil also promised to open Libya up to the outside world and build "strong relations with other countries".

"In eight months we will hold legislative and presidential elections," said Jalil, chairman of the NTC which now
controls all but isolated pockets of the oil-rich state.

Live Box 20115613924415945

"We want a democratic government and a just constitution. Above all we do not wish to continue to be isolated in the world as we have been up to now," he told the newspaper.

The announcement was praised on Wednesday in Tripoli, where Al Jazeera correspondent Evan Hill spoke to locals about the prospect of free elctions after Gaddafi's more than 40 years in power.

"We are going to buil a new country with the law and with discipline," said Mahmoud Ashour, a 58-year-old shop owner.

Yet Ashour does anticipate a challenging transition to democracy.

"We will have a problem rebuilding. Why? Because the people are not really educated. They don't know about political parties. They haven't had a chance to live in a world with multiple political parties."

"Hopefully this transitional period will eb safe, without blood," he added.

Gaddafi's whereabouts remained unknown on Wednesday after the rebels had overrun his Tripoli compound, but Jalil said he and his inner circle should be captured alive and stand trial in Libya.

"The Gaddafi era is over, even if it will only really end with his capture and his conviction for the crimes he has committed."

The consensus within the NTC was that Gaddafi and his cohorts ishould be judged "in a fair trial, but it must take place in Libya", Jalil told the newspaper.

For that to happen "we need to take them alive and treat them differently from the way the colonel treated his adversaries. He will stay in the memory only for the crimes, the arrests and the political assassinations he carried out", he added.

After a six-month uprising against Gaddafi, who ruled over Libya for 42 years, there were only "pockets of resistance" left in Tripoli, and his troops has retreated to Gaddafi's stronghold port city of Sirte, Jalil said.

He said the "new" Libya "must be a different country from the past, based on the principles of freedom, equality and fraternity," and will have "strong relations with other countries, based on mutual respect and cooperation".

"We will be an active member of the international community and we will respect the treaties signed in the past," he said.

Source: Agencies