US envoy in Tripoli praises NTC over security

Jeffrey Feltman says interim leaders are getting Libya's many armed groups under control during visit to capital.

    A senior US envoy has visited Tripoli to show support for Libya's new leaders, saying the National Transitional Council (NTC) was getting the country's many armed groups under control and that the aftermath of Libya's uprising would not be dominated by one faction. 

    Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, met Libya's new interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Wednesday, becoming the first official of the Barack Obama administration to visit the Libyan capital since Muammar Gaddafi's regime fell last month.

    Asked later about the strength of Islamist groups in the NTC, Feltman said: "We are not concerned that one group will be able to dominate the aftermath of what has been a shared struggle."

    In a statement delivered after the meeting with Abdel Jalil, Feltman said: "The United States and our international partners have an enduring commitment to supporting the Libyan people as they chart their country's future.

    "This includes working with NATO and our coalition partners to continue operations to protect Libyan civilians until they are no longer under threat."

    "We remain encouraged by growing command and control over security and police forces," he said.

    "We understand that this is a difficult task. Libya's interim leadership is solidifying the steps and integrating
    militias under one civilian authority."

    He also said he expected the new rulers in Tripoli to "share concerns about terrorism" with the US.

    Feltman added that Washington aims to reopen a full embassy as soon as possible, but did not offer details.

    The envoy's visit comes just two days after Abdel Jalil himself arrived in Tripoli in his new role and only three weeks after Gaddafi was put to flight.

    Later on Wednesday Suleiman Fortia, an NTC representative of the city of Misrata, told the Associated Press news agency that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will travel to Tripoli on the next day.

    There was no official confirmation from both Sarkozy and Cameron's offices.

    Gaddafi still looms

    Tripoli has been relatively stable since NTC forces overran it on August 23, but the NATO-backed fighters are still trying to capture at least three towns held by Gaddafi loyalists.

    Interim government forces are besieging one of those last bastions, Bani Walid, 180km south of the capital, along with Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast and Sabha, deep in the southern desert.

    NTC fighters reached the centre of the town on Wednesday but had to retreat after fierce battles killed seven revolutionaries - among them a military commander, a military source told Al Jazeera.

    The source said they are progressing on the western front.

    After a week of fighting, NTC forces at Bani Walid have been urging people to leave before they try to storm the town.

    Scores of cars packed with families left Bani Walid on Wednesday as NTC forces broadcast messages telling them to go and handed out free petrol to help them evacuate.

    Meanwhile, the deposed leader has not been seen in public since June and his current whereabouts are unknown.

    NATO has said it will keep bombing any Gaddafi loyalists who endanger civilians, but said it would not take an active role in hunting Gaddafi.

    One of his sons, Saadi, has turned to Libya's southern neighbour Niger for refuge, raising speculation that Gaddafi himself could had fled the country.

    NTC officials have said he could be hiding in one of the outposts like Bani Walid, helping to rally a last stand against NATO-backed forces.

    Gaddafi's fugitive spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, speaking on a satellite phone, told the Reuters news agency that the 69-year-old leader was still in Libya, in good spirits and gathering his forces for a fightback.

    "The leader is in good health, in high morale ... of course he is in Libya," Ibrahim said on Wednesday, declining to give his own location.

    "The fight is as far away from the end as the world can imagine. We are still very powerful, our army is still powerful, we have thousands upon thousands of volunteers."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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