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Gadhafi loyalists given one more week to surrender

By the CNN Wire Staff
Mustafa Abdel Jalil (right) and Mahmud Jibril of the Libyan National Transitional Council in Paris on September 1.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil (right) and Mahmud Jibril of the Libyan National Transitional Council in Paris on September 1.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Spokesman says Gadhafi safe, still in Libya
  • Anti-Gadhafi forces may try to enter Bani Walid
  • in Tripoli, guns prevail on the streets but there's little security
  • A U.N. team is on the ground addressing humanitarian needs
RELATED TOPICS

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libya's interim leadership gave Moammar Gadhafi loyalists one more week to surrender before they face military force in the last bastions of the strongman's power.

But with the olive branch came a threat.

Anti-Gadhafi forces are positioning around the former leader's hometown, Sirte, and Bani Walid, where a powerful tribe is sympathetic to Gadhafi, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said Saturday.

"This extension does not mean we are unaware of what Gadhafi's accomplices are up to," Jalil said at a news conference, countering earlier criticism that a grace period might give Gadhafi's forces to regroup.

Ali Tarhouni, the interim deputy prime minister and oil minister, said the city was close to falling.

"It's possible, although we are not sure, that the Bani Walid (tribe) has joined the revolution, and now it's under control of the revolutionaries," he said.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said key tribal leaders in Bani Walid are still loyal to Gadhafi.

Ibrahim told Reuters that Gadhafi, while not in Bani Walid, is still in the country. He said he did not know where.

"I know that very much he is in the country, which is for sure," Ibrahim said. "He is in a safe place, surrounded by many people who are prepared to protect him."

Anti-Gadhafi fighters from the east pushed toward Bani Walid Saturday, with virtually no resistance. They were able to reach El Mardum, which sits on the border of Bani Walid province and is home to Khamis Gadhafi's 32nd Brigade base.

The anti-Gadhafi forces entered the base and arrested three men in civilian clothes they claim were loyalists. They also were able to take seven armored personnel carriers.

National Transitional Council media coordinator Adel Zintani told CNN's Kareem Khadder that rebel fighters could enter Bani Walid by Sunday morning.

"The rebel fighters have surrounded the outskirts of Bani Walid on the western side," he said.

"Some tribal leaders and many of the residents have surrendered their weapons, but there are still many loyalists who are protecting Moammar Gadhafi and his sons," Zintani said.

Tarhouni said Libya's new leadership will move their headquarters from Benghazi to Tripoli next week to begin implementing political plans to shape a new future.

But for the time being, guns trump government on the streets of the capital.

Tripoli has become a city of checkpoints, weapons and no real authority as the threat of Gadhafi's loyalists lingers.

Jittery and suspicious anti-Gadhafi fighters blocked a road Saturday where a drive-by shooting occurred earlier. They collected weapons and registered them at police stations. Those who called themselves rebels just a week ago were now working with Tripoli's law enforcement authorities.

With Gadhafi's armories emptied, guns, always in large supply in Libya, have proliferated on the streets.

Those who want to carry weapons now must be issued identification cards but the selection process is not centralized -- neighborhood councils are making that decision.

A group called the Tripoli Revolutionary Council is trying to exert control over the city, creating potential for further conflict with the established National Transitional Council in a volatile situation.

Tarhouni, meanwhile, announced Saturday the formation of the Supreme Security Committee, which held its first meeting Friday. Among the priorities for the committee were the protection of public institutions and weapons in Tripoli.

Tarhouni said the committee agreed that protecting Tripoli will eventually fall under the Interior Ministry but for now, given the lack of police on the streets, the anti-Gadhafi brigades will take on that role under the watch of the new committee.

Many residents don't want to hand over their weapons, their sole source of security on a nation freed from a strongman's grip.

Azeldin Al-Hensheri said one man refused to turn in his gun.

"He said: 'No no no, I am a big guy. I am in power now. Gadhafi not here anymore. I am going to use my gun and shoot everywhere,' " Al-Hensheri said.

He said the man was killed by the rebels, summary justice prevailing.

Insecurity, compounded by dire shortages of water, food and gas, has punctured the celebratory air of victory with fear and anxiety.

After an international conference on Libya, held in Paris Thursday, a United Nations team was on the ground to re-establish the organization's presence to address immediate concerns.

"It is critical to ensure an immediate and effective U.N. presence on the ground to help identify and assist vulnerable people who have been particularly affected by the conflict and the disruption of services," said Panos Moumtzis, the global body's humanitarian coordinator for Libya, who arrived in Tripoli Thursday.

Food and water distribution -- about 60% of Tripoli is without drinking water -- has already begun.

The transitional council, meanwhile, is trying to get Libya's oil-dependent economy going again.

It expects to restart oil production at the Misla and Sarir oil fields in less than two weeks, said Tarhouni, the oil minister.

The council is also reportedly trying to build international relationships in order to beef up oil exports.

To that end, Russia invited new Libyan leaders to Moscow for talks on energy projects, the state-run RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

"They have proposed a discussion," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "We invited some (Libyan) officials to Moscow at their request."

The NTC has said those NATO countries that gave them support during their fight with the Gadhafi regime "would have the priority in energy projects in the oil-rich country," RIA Novosti said.

Russia, a critic of the NATO bombings, only recently recognized the transitional council as Libya's governing authority.

CNN's Arwa Damon, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Fred Pleitgen and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

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