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Chase for Gaddafi continues in Libya amid more external support

(Xinhua)

13:24, August 25, 2011

BEIJING, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Libyan rebel troops are continuing their chase for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after they captured his stronghold in Tripoli Tuesday, while more and more outside forces are cheering them on.

Libya's rebel troops Wednesday took control of the Mazraq al-Shams army base in Libya's port city of Zuara, some 60 km from the Tunisian border, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV reported.

In the capital of Tripoli, sporadic clashes were reported between Gaddafi's forces and rebel troops fighting to consolidate their grip on the capital.

A military spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) said Wednesday that Gaddafi has lost control of 95 percent of Libya, spelling an end to his rule.

Libyan rebels Tuesday captured the Bab al-Azizya compound, Gaddafi's last stronghold in Tripoli after heavy fighting. However, the whereabouts of the embattled Libyan leader are still unknown.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the NTC, said Wednesday that Libyan rebels put a bounty of about 1.67 million U.S. dollars on Gaddafi's head, dead or alive.

Meanwhile, the rebel leader said that those who kill or catch Gaddafi will be pardoned for past crimes. He denied negotiations with Gaddafi forces in Sirte.

Jalil noted some rebel fighters from eastern Libya had already penetrated into Gaddafi's hometown.

NTC military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said at a press conference earlier that Gaddafi might have hidden in the desert areas between Sirte and Sabah.

"We will track him down and catch him as soon as he appears," Bani said.

Early on Wednesday, Gaddafi said his withdrawal from Bab al-Azizya was a tactical move, local al-Orouba TV reported.

The defiant Libyan leader said the compound had been leveled to the ground by as many as 64 NATO airstrikes, al-Orouba said, adding Gaddafi vowed death or victory in his fight against the "aggression."

Ethiopia and Nigeria, the two most populous African countries, announced Wednesday that they have recognized the NTC as Libya's legitimate government as it is controlling most of Libya, including Tripoli.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his Nigerian counterpart Oubeng Ashiru told journalists in Ethiopia that the two countries have decided to jointly recognize the NTC as the interim legitimate authority in Libya.

In the joint press statement, they also called on all peace-loving countries in general and those of Africa and the African Union (AU) in particular to contribute to peace and stability in Libya by recognizing the authority and legitimacy of the NTC.

Hailemariam said the two countries would try to provide the necessary support, including the political support requested by the NTC, for a smooth transition in Libya.

The Arab League (AL) said Wednesday it wanted to help war-torn Libya rebuild its health sector.

The efforts will be exerted within the frame of the Arab Council of Health Ministers, aiming to better the humanitarian situation in Libya, according to Egypt's official news agency MENA.

The AL has been supporting the Libyan people since the unrest started. It has sent a large convoy and a delegation accompanied by a fully equipped ambulance offered by the Arab Council of Health Ministers, said Laila Negm, director of the AL Department of Health Affairs and Humanitarian Aid.

Besides, the league has assigned the medical center in Benghazi to conduct a study evaluating the health and social conditions via a technical committee in five areas: Benghazi, Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar, Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Jabal Nafusa, the minister said.

The Damascus-based Islamic Hamas movement Wednesday congratulated the Libyan people on the success of the popular uprising, saying it hopes the Palestinian question would remain among the top priorities of the Libyan people.

Hamas expressed the hope that the Libyans could establish a modern society, where democracy, freedom, and independent national decisions could prevail without foreign intervention.

At the request of the United States, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether to unfreeze 1.5 billion dollars in Libyan assets.

The United States has called a meeting to introduce a resolution that would unfreeze roughly 1.5 billion dollars of Libyan assets to meet urgent humanitarian needs, although it faces opposition from countries like South Africa, a non-permanent member of the council.

NTC head Jalil said Wednesday at a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the Elysee Palace that the contact group will meet on Sept. 1, stressing the importance of the meeting and the urgent need of Libya's transition authority for more security and funds.

Jalil said that this aid included the release of Libyan assets that had been frozen as sanctions against Gaddafi's regime.

French foreign ministry sources said that France is working with its partners at the United Nations to unfreeze Libyan assets.

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