Libyan interim government forces are still battling Gaddafi loyalists a month after taking the capital Tripoli [AFP]

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has recognised the National Transitional Council as Libya's representative.

The OPEC's recognition came after the United Nations approved a Libyan request to accredit envoys of the country's interim government as Tripoli's sole representatives at the world body on Friday.

"OPEC will recognise the NTC ... and they will sit in the same chair," Abdullah al-Badri, OPEC's secretary-general, told the Gulf Intelligence energy forum in Dubai on Monday.

Libyan oil

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, leader of the newly formed Tripoli Military Council, is fast emerging as Libya's rising star

Since failing to convince other OPEC members at their last meeting in Vienna in June to raise output to make up for the loss of Libyan crude since February, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf OPEC allies have raised their oil production over the last few months.

Badri said those countries are certain to gradually decrease their output as Libya's production recovers towards pre-war levels.

Badri, who was the Libyan energy minister for ten years (1990-2000) and headed its National Oil Corporation (NOC) until 2006, said production in fields in central Libya could be back to pre-war levels in 15 months, while other areas might take longer.

Some Libyan oil fields have recently restarted production but it remains unclear when they will return to pre-war levels of about 1.6 million barrels per day.

Situation 'unbearable'

The recognition for the NTC came even as its fighters battled troops loyal to deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, a month after taking the capital Tripoli.

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NTC forces tried several times to take Bani Walid, only to be repelled by Gaddafi loyalists defending the city, rebel commanders told Al Jazeera. 

Since taking the capital Tripoli last month, NTC fighters have met stiff resistance in Bani Walid and Gaddafi's birthplace Sirte, which they must capture before they can declare Libya "liberated".

Anti-Gaddafi forces were pushing further on Monday towards Sirte, one of the final strongholds of Libya's old regime, as residents fled from the city.

Former rebel fighters searched the long line of vehicles waiting to escape from Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, where fighting is raging.

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"The situation is unbearable. There has been no electricity, no water for six months," said one resident as he drove away with his family.

The new leadership is facing a tough fight uprooting the remnants of Gaddafi's regime nearly four weeks after the then-rebels rolled into Tripoli on August 21 and toppled the now fugitive leader.

The battle at Sirte, launched on Friday, has been fierce, and the revolutionaries have made slow progress.

The past three days they have battled block by block into the western side of Sirte.

Other fighters in the low hills to the south have been drumming with rockets and mortars Gaddafi strongholds in the flat plain of the city below.

At least 18 fighters have been killed and 51 wounded in the area since September 15, the opposition's military council in Misrata said on Sunday.

The whereabouts of Gaddafi are still unknown.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies