Libyan Provisional Authority Facing Stalled Military, Political Efforts

Posted September 19th, 2011 at 1:47 am (UTC-5)
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Libya's provisional authority is facing military and political challenges, as fighters have met continued resistance in former leader Moammar Gadhafi's remaining strongholds and National Transitional Council leaders have delayed announcing a new government.

NTC volunteer fighters fled in chaos Sunday from the heavily fortified desert town of Bani Walid when pro-Gadhafi troops attacked their positions with mortars and sniper fire.

Regular, trained provisional authority troops had pulled away from Bani Walid after failing to take the town in earlier fighting. Volunteers who chose to remain at the front line took heavy fire Sunday.

In Mr. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, revolutionary forces also have encountered fierce resistance. Most NTC fighters besieging that city are part of experienced, battle-hardened brigades from Misrata.

On Sunday, they deployed long-range artillery, tanks, mobile rocket launchers and mortars in an attempt to pound loyalist forces into submission. Pro-Gadhafi fighters responded with their own heavy fire, inflicting numerous casualties among revolutionary forces.

The NTC had planned to reveal new Cabinet positions on Sunday, but interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told reporters last-minute negotiations have delayed the announcement “indefinitely.”

The former rebels' executive committee was dissolved last month. Talks about new appointments broke down when Mr. Jibril's proposals did not receive full backing.

NTC officials also disagreed about whether it is necessary to form a transitional government before declaring Libya fully “liberated” from pro-Gadhafi forces. Provisional authority plans for a new constitution and elections could unfold once that declaration is made.

The deposed leader's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said pro-Gadhafi fighters have won several battles lately and have the ability to continue “for months.”

Ibrahim also said loyalist forces have captured what he called a number of French, British and Qatari “mercenaries.” He said the group will be shown on television at a later time, but he did not give more details. It was not possible to immediately verify Ibrahim's claims.