Libya's new leaders move to return capital to normal
Libya's new leaders moved to restore order to Tripoli on Saturday, instructing fighters from the provinces to go home as they prepared to transfer to the capital from their wartime base in Benghazi.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the world body was ready to assist in re-establishing security after the nearly seven-month uprising that ousted Moamer Kadhafi, as Western governments that backed the rebels faced embarrassing questions about their previous complicity with his regime.
There was still no firm word on the whereabouts of the toppled strongman after he defiantly threatened to lead a protracted insurgency in audio tapes aired by Arab media on Thursday.
The victors extended until next weekend an ultimatum for the surrender of his remaining loyalists but moved troops towards Bani Walid, a desert town southeast of the capital where they suspect Kadhafi may have taken refuge.
"Starting Saturday, there will be a large number of security personnel and policemen who will go back to work," interim interior and security minister Ahmed Darrad told AFP.
"Now the revolutionaries of Tripoli are able to protect their own city."
Darrad said that fighters from the provinces who were instrumental in ousting Kadhafi from the capital had orders to return home in a move aimed at defusing potential tensions with Tripoli residents who endured the ravages of the regime in its dying days.
The head of the provisional government, the National Transitional Council, told dignitaries in Libya's second city of Benghazi, where the uprising began, that it would transfer its headquarters to the capital in the coming days as it moved to return the North African nation to normality.
"We will go to Tripoli next week. Tripoli is our capital," NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said.
Banks and some shops in the capital reopened on Saturday, AFP correspondents reported. Traffic jams also made a comeback as the NTC fighters took down some of the roadblocks it had set up after their capture of Tripoli last month.
Bolstered by promises made at an international conference in Paris on Thursday of billions of dollars in cash from unfrozen assets of the Kadhafi regime, the NTC prepared to implement a roadmap for establishing democracy.
For the first eight months the NTC would lead Libya, during which a council of about 200 people would be directly elected to draft a constitution, NTC representative in Britain Guma al-Gamaty told the BBC on Friday.
The draft would be debated and then put to a referendum, he added, referring to plans drawn up in March and refined last month.
Within a year of the council being installed, parliamentary and presidential elections would be held.
The UN chief said that the world body would do all it could to assist Libya's new rulers in restoring order and establishing democracy.
"We are working to make sure that the United Nations can respond quickly to requests by the Libyan authorities," Ban said in Australia Saturday.
"This includes restoring public security and order and promoting rule of law, promoting inclusive political dialogue... and protecting human rights, particularly for vulnerable groups."
Documents seized from the homes and offices of Kadhafi officials threw an embarrassing light on the cooperation between Western intelligence agencies and the regime's security services over the past decade as London and Washington wooed Tripoli in their wars against Al-Qaeda and nuclear proliferation.
The Wall Street Journal reported that documents recovered from the headquarters of the External Security Agency revealed that the United States had flown multiple suspects to Libya for interrogation and potential torture as part of its controversial "extraordinary rendition" programme.
The US Central Intelligence Agency, under the administration of then-president George W. Bush, suggested questions that Libyan interrogators should ask the suspects, the Journal said.
In 2004, the CIA set up "a permanent presence" in Libya, the paper added, citing a note from the agency's top operative Stephen Kappes to the regime's then-intelligence chief Mussa Kussa.
Suggesting the closeness of the relationship, the note began "Dear Mussa" and was signed "Steve."
British daily The Independent said that documents discovered in the offices of Kussa, who went on to become Kadhafi's foreign minister, showed that Britain and the United States even passed on information about exiled dissidents to the regime's security services.
The documents also showed that a statement given by Kadhafi in December 2003 renouncing weapons of mass destruction in a bid to shed his regime's pariah status was put together with the help of British officials, the Independent added.
The NTC said it was pressing negotiations with civic and tribal leaders in Kadhafi's last strongholds in an effort to secure a bloodless conclusion to the uprising which began in mid-February but moved troops towards Bani Walid on Saturday in preparation for an eventual offensive.
The troops had met no opposition from Kadhafi forces by late morning when they reached the Bir Dufan area, half way between the coastal city of Misrata and Bani Walid, an AFP correspondent reported.
NATO meanwhile said it had struck targets of pro-Kadhafi forces Friday in the vicinity of Sirte, Bani Walid, and Hun, half-way between Sirte and the loyalist-held oasis town of Sabha in the south.
Two leading critics of the NATO-led military campaign that helped topple Kadhafi, meanwhile, moved to protect their interests in the new Libya.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had invited members of the transitional government to Moscow for energy talks, while China revealed that in talks with NTC number two Mahmud Jibril in Paris on Friday Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun sought guarantees for Chinese business interests.
© 2011 AFP