|The NTC finance minister announced the 'beginning and assumption' of the rebels' work in Tripoli [Reuters]
Libya's rebel-led interim government says it is ready to move into the capital, Tripoli, from its previous base in the eastern city of Benghazi, to begin governing the country.
Ali Tarhouni, the National Transitional Council's (NTC) finance minister, made the announcement on Thursday at a news conference at the Radisson hotel in Tripoli.
"I declare the beginning and assumption of the executive committee's work in Tripoli," Tarhouni, said.
"Long live democratic and constitutional Libya and glory to our martyrs," he said, announcing the holders of key posts in a new provisional government.
Tarhouni said NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil would arrive in Tripoli as soon as the security situation permitted.
He said recognition of the NTC by the international community played an important part in the rebels' fight against Muammar Gaddafi and his troops.
Tarhouni also called on forces loyal to Gaddafi to lay down their arms, and promised they would be treated lawfully.
"Put your weapons down and go home. We will not take revenge. Between us and between you is the law. I promise you will be safe."
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Half of the NTC's members arrived in Tripoli on Thursday to begin a transition to the post-Gaddafi era, while a rebel offensive largely cleared the staunchly loyalist district of Abu Salim in the capital after fierce fighting.
"Half of the government is here, and today we have had meetings with the military leadership," Mahmud Shamman, NTC spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, also pledged support for the "new Libya", and urged the triumphant rebels to turn the page on Gaddafi's rule and build a secure and democratic state.
Clinton called on the rebels to guard weapons stockpiles and take a hard line against "extremism".
"The situation remains fluid, but it is clear that the Gaddafi era is coming to an end, opening the way for a new era in Libya - one of liberty, justice, and peace," she said in a written statement.
In a big boost to the cash-strapped NTC, the US said it would release $1.5bn of frozen Libyan assets held in American banks.
"The money will be moving within days," a US diplomat said.
Washington said the money would pay for UN programmes, energy bills, health, education and food, and would not be used for any "military purposes".
Earlier, a senior rebel official said diplomats of the Contact Group on Libya had agreed in Istanbul to speed up the release of $2.5bn in frozen Libyan assets by the middle of next week.
Also, Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said Rome would next week release 350 million euros [$504m] frozen in Italian banks.