Libya's new leader calls for civil state

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil's first public speech in Tripoli defines Libya as a democratic state based on Islamic law.

    The chief of Libya's revolutionary movement has urged a cheering crowd in Tripoli to strive for a civil, democratic state, while loyalists of fugitive dictator Muammar Gaddafi killed at least 15 opposition fighters in an attack on a key oil town in Libya's east.

    From hiding, Gaddafi urged his remaining followers to keep up the fight, a sign that Libya's six-month civil unrest is not over even though revolutionary forces now control most of the country and have begun setting up a new government in the capital.

    Mustafa Abdul-Jalil addressed a crowd of thousands in Martyr's Square in central Tripoli, a site that until recently was famous for pro-Gaddafi rallies. Flanked by a few dozen revolutionary leaders in their largest public gathering since their forces stormed the capital on August 21, he called on Libyans to build a democratic state based on Islamic law.

    "No retribution, no taking matters into your own hands and no oppression. I hope that the revolution will not stumble because of any of these things," he said.

    As he spoke, thousands waved flags, cheered and chanted, "Hold your head high, you're a free Libyan!" Some wept openly as fireworks exploded overhead.

    Abdul-Jalil heads the National Transitional Council, founded in the eastern city of Benghazi early in the six-month civil war to guide the rebel movement. Its leaders have been arriving in the capital since it fell into rebel hands last month to start building a new government.

    Abdul-Jalil, who served as Gaddafi's justice minister before joining the rebels at the uprising's start, defined the government he says the NTC hopes to create.

    "We strive for a state of the law, for a state of prosperity, for a state that will have Islamic sharia law the basis of legislation," he said.

    Younes Abouyoub, research scholar at Columbia University, told Al Jazeera that the speech was "important" and "extremely timely" because schisms have begun to emerge among those who supported the toppling of Gaddafi.

    "I think he [Abdul-Jalil] wanted to make sure that people understand that this revolution is not going to steer the state towards either a liberal, western-style state or an extremist-style like some people would like to have - which I believe is a minority."

    Describing most Libyans as "moderate", Abouyoub said that the purpose of the revolution was to let more voices and opinions be heard.
    "Absolutely, there will be tensions. There will be different views. That's the whole point of the revolution... The main thing now is how to solve these conflicts in a peaceful way, not resort to armed fighting."

    Saadi detained in Niger'

    Hours after the attack by Gaddafi loyalists on an oil refinery outside the coastal town of Ras Lanuf, the government of Niger confirmed to the United States that it had detained Gaddafi's son, Saadi, and is studying what to do with him, the US State Department said on Monday.

    "We have confirmed with the government of Niger that Saadi crossed over [and] that they are either in the process or have already brought him to the capital of Naimey and intend to detain him," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told the Reuters news agency.

    Niger's prime minister said dozens of members of Gaddafi's inner circle had arrived in Niger since September 2.

    "A total of 32 people are now here, including one of [Gaddafi's] sons, Saadi, as well as three generals," said Brigi Rafini, during a meeting with foreign diplomats in Niamey, the AFP news agency reported.

    The arrivals had crossed the border in four separate groups over the last 10 days and had been taken in by Niger for "humanitarian reasons", the prime minister added.

    A Syrian-based television station that has broadcast messages from Gaddafi in the past said the former leader was still in Libya, but it was unable to air a televised appearance for security reasons.

    "It was meant to show the leader among his fighters and people, leading the struggle from Libyan lands, and not from Venezuela or Niger or anywhere else," Mishan Jabouri, owner of the Arrai channel, told viewers.

    Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Tripoli, said: "This statement is considered a desperate PR stunt by Gaddafi saying that he is still in Libya and he still has suporters who will fight for him ... The feeling here among the NTC is that Gaddafi has lost the battle".

    Fighting continues

    Despite Gaddafi's defiance, battles continued on the outskirts of Bani Walid, one of the last bastions of support for Gaddafi, as NTC fighters massed there for another day.

    The continued advance on Bani Walid, and elsewhere on Sirte on Monday, came as China officially recognised the interim leadership.

    "Revolutionary fighters, from where I am, are firing grad rockets while other people, defending Bani Walid, are firing back in the name of Colonel Gaddafi with artillery and mortar shells," said Al Jazeera correspondent Anita McNaught, reporting from the southeast of the city on Monday.

    She continued: "There was the hope perhaps that today the big push to take us into Bani Walid from the south would have happened by now. But the entire battle seems to be intriguingly dysfunctional at the moment, with not ideal co-ordination either between fighting groups or between the north and south frontier."

    McNaught said there was still resistance inside the town, with pro-Gaddafi fighters there estimated to number from 150 to 600.

    Citing NTC fighters present during the attack on Ras Lanuf, Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid said a column of vehicles carrying armed Gaddafi loyalists drove up to the refinery's checkpoint on Monday morning.

    "It was a very bold attack ... From what we understand there was an exchange of gunfire, doctors here at the hospital told us that some of the dead were shot point blank," he said.

    Ras Lanuf is located approximately 600km east of the capital, Tripoli, and 80km away from the current frontline of the fighting, Hamid said.

    China recognises NTC

    On the diplomatic front, China formally recognised the NTCa s Libya's government, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

    Beijing "officially recognised the ... NTC of Libya as the ruling authority and representative of the Libyan people", the English service of the official newswire reported.

    China is the last member of the UN Security Council to recognise the NTC. It had previously criticised the NATO-led air campaign against Gaddafi's forces and refused to condemn the dictator.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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