Representatives from 25 Libyan local councils have met in Abu Dhabi, expressing support for the uprising against long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This is first time that leaders from councils and tribes in south and west Libya, away from the heartland of the rebellion in the east, have been able to meet. A representative from Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, was among the delegates in attendance on Monday.

"As we continue our support for the 17th February uprising and, in defiance of the regime's claims, we announce unequivocally our allegiance to and trust in the National Transitional Council (NTC)," a statement said.

"In support of the struggle of the Libyan people to establish a modern civil society, (70) members of various local councils - which represent the different western, central and southern regions and tribes of Libya - have come together in Abu Dhabi".

The conference called for international recognition of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and for providing the rebels with advanced weaponry, they say, is needed to defeat Gaddafi's better-armed troops.

An official from the NTC who requested anonymity told AFP news agency that the Abu Dhabi meeting was aimed at "strengthening the unity of the Libyan regions and tribes".

Representatives from smaller, beleaguered western cities such as Zwara used the meeting as a platform to publicise their sufferings, which have received less attention than Benghazi and Misurata, a western city and Libya's third-largest that has been besieged by Gaddafi's forces for months.

The delegates will travel to Doha, the Qatari capital, later this week, and then convene for the first time in Benghazi on Friday.

The show of unity may also help the opposition forces convince a skittish market to buy oil from rebel-held eastern Libya.

So far, the NTC has only been able to sell around one million barrels to Qatar for $120m. But on Monday, Aref Ali Nayed, a representative for the council abroad, said the council will sell oil through international tenders.

World powers have promised $250m in humanitarian aid to the rebels and said the Gaddafi regime's frozen overseas assets, estimated at $60bn, would be used later to assist the Libyan opposition.

Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies