Rebels claim control over parts of Gaddafi-stronghold
Libyan rebels claimed a partial victory Monday in their fight against forces loyal to fugitive leader Moamer Gaddafi, but suffered a political setback when the creation of an interim government was delayed once again due to divisions over its candidates, DPA reported.
A spokesman of the Transitional National Council said fighters had captured parts of the southern Gaddafi-stronghold of Sabha and its airport, the Libyan Youth Movement said.
And rebel forces were also renewing their front-line offensives thanks to key military reinforcements after pro-Gaddafi fighters put up stiff resistance in his birthplace of Sirte and the desert town of Bani Walid, south-east of Tripoli, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
According to rebel sources the "Gaddafi fighters are fighting fiercely for their last strongholds and they are positioned in key places inside the city of Bani Walid."
But Gaddafi spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, speaking to the Damascus-based al Rai television by phone, said government troops had won "several battles against the country's new authorities and had managed to push them out of Bani Walid and Sirte."
"In spite of deadly NATO strikes our forces resist and our fighters pursue their fight because we are involved in a battle for dignity and against the forces of evil," he said.
Ibrahim said he was confident that the capital Tripoli would be "reconquered" and claimed that his fighters had "captured French, British and one Qatari mercenaries."
Commenting on Ibrahim's claims, the French foreign ministry spokesman said: "We have no information confirming this rumour."
Almost a month after they overran Tripoli, the rebels are at pains to take control of the two strongholds before their leaders can declare all of the North African country "liberated."
The council's leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was expected Tuesday in New York, where is to meet US President Barak Obama and deliver a speech at the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the council has put off "indefinitely" its much-anticipated naming of a new government tasked with moving the nation forward after the ouster of Gaddafi.
Tensions have emerged between the council and other players in the new Libya, including militias, Islamists and regional representatives, making it difficult for the council to announce a new government.
The delay is due to divisions among the rebels on candidates to fill in the posts, especially the prime minister's position, which has been held by Mahmoud Jibril for the past few months.
Some of the rebels reject Jibril, arguing that none of the ministers should have held any government position during the Gaddafi era.
Both Jibril and Abdul Jalil have served during the Gaddafi regime.