Chaos as Libyan council chief gives briefing in Tripoli

 

LIBYA’S REBEL prime minister Mahmoud Jibril saw his grand entrance on the world stage dissolve amid chaotic scenes yesterday at his first press conference since arriving in the capital, Tripoli.

Security concerns saw Mr Jibril delay moving from the National Transitional Council base in Benghazi for more than two weeks after Tripoli fell, with his government struggling to secure control of the city they liberated.

The venue for the event was never revealed online, as promised by the council, leading to chaotic scenes as reporters scrambled to find the location – which turned out to be the office of Muammar Gadafy’s ousted prime minister.

In the hall, bad acoustics and mumbled translation left many of the answers inaudible, while outside, dozens of journalists argued with gunmen who blocked the entrance. One gunman, giving his name as Mohammed, said he had orders from Mr Jibril not to allow journalists into the building.

Inside, Mr Jibril was vague on when he thought the war might end, with pro-Gadafy forces continuing to resist in the cities of Sirte, Beni Walid and Sabha.

“There are two battles,” he said. “The first battle is against Gadafy and his regime; this will end by the capturing or the elimination of Gadafy. However, the battle that is more difficult is against ourselves. How can we achieve reconciliation and achieve peace and security and agree a constitution? We must not attack each other or push each other away.”

Outside his office, the battle “against ourselves” was heating up as officials yelled at each other over admitting journalists and TV crews. Freelance camerawoman Irina Kalashnikova was hit in the face as she photographed officials blocking the path for a TV crew.

Gun-toting rebels outside were divided over regional affiliations: rebels from Misurata and the western Nafusa mountains complained loudly that the jostling was part of a wider problem, which they said was their exclusion from a council dominated, they claimed, by Benghazi-based officials.

The problem is felt across the country: Misurata’s rebels have set up a security cordon around their city and reorganised their brigades to exclude them from taking orders from the council, while Nafusa brigades are considering following suit.

These brigades are maintaining security in a capital where pro-Gadafy sentiment runs deep in a small number of districts. A protest against what Nafusa units call exclusion from power is planned today in the capital.