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Libya NTC says to announce "crisis" government in days

Sep 23, 2011, 2:56 p.m.
Fighters loyal to Libya's interim rulers prepare ammunition for artillery on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sirte September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Anis Mili

By Emad Omar and Alexander Dziadosz

BENGHAZI/SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Libya's interim rulers said on Friday they would announce a "crisis" government within the next few days, signaling a breakthrough in efforts to form a more inclusive administration after the war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

"We've agreed on a number of portfolios and who would hold the most important ones. There will be 22 portfolios and one vice premier," said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTC).

"It will be a compact government, a crisis government."

NTC forces said they had tightened their grip on southern oasis towns which sided with Gaddafi. That progress is overshadowed by unsuccessful efforts to take two remaining strongholds loyal to the ousted leader.

It remains unclear whether the NTC, still based in the eastern city of Benghazi, can unify a country split along tribal and regional lines.

Getting the oil on which the economy relies pumping again is key to building the NTC's credibility and earning more of the cash it needs to build a new state after 42 years of eccentric, one-man rule.

Those efforts were boosted on Friday when France's Total said production at its Al-Jurf offshore field had restarted and that crude shipments were likely to resume in around two weeks.

The company said it still needed to carry out detailed inspections at its onshore sites before being in a position to say when it would restart production. Total has a Libyan crude production capacity of 55,000 barrels per day.

The announcement is the latest step toward getting oil pumping at full capacity again, though wresting control of Bani Walid and Sirte from Gaddafi's forces remains the NTC priority.

"RESISTANCE IS HOPELESS"

A Reuters reporter on the western edges of Sirte saw dozens of cars with civilians leaving the town on Friday. Rebels fired sporadic tank shells and artillery at suspected positions of Gaddafi loyalists. NATO aircraft could be heard overhead.

"In the city, as soon as you leave the main square there is shooting. It is an effort to scare the residents," said Massoud al Adawi, a fleeing resident of Sirte.

"Gaddafi loyalists) don't want people to leave the city. They want to use them as human shields."

Amr al-Aswar, a NTC military commander on the western edge of Sirte, said avoiding civilian casualties in the town was the main problem for his forces.

Until Thursday, some parts of Sabha, the traditional base for Gaddafi's own tribe about 800 km (500 miles) south of Tripoli, had been occupied by fighters loyal to the leader who lost control of the capital and most of the country last month.

"Our revolutionaries are controlling 100 percent of Sabha city, although there are some pockets of resistance by snipers," NTC military spokesman Ahmed Bani said on Thursday in Tripoli.

"This resistance is hopeless ... They are fighting for themselves, not for the tyrant," he told reporters.

The NTC says it also controls Jufra, to the northeast of Sabha, and the nearby oasis towns of Sokna, Waddan, and Houn.

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