Turkish PM visits Libya amid clashes / UPDATED

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tripoli on Friday, in the midst of a fierce battle over Gaddafi's home town.

Turkish PM visits Libya amid clashes / UPDATED

Turkey's prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, on a North African tour to assert Ankara's regional influence, arrived in Tripoli on Friday, in the midst of a fierce battle over Gaddafi's home town.

A Turkish ship did play a key role in evacuating civilians from the coastal town of Misrata while it was besieged by Gaddafi forces, and Ankara has recently been vocal in supporting the NTC and provided it with $300 million in cash, loans and other aid.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron unexpectedly rushed to Libya before Erdogan's planned trip to the country.

They were told their support "may be repaid in business contracts with the oil-rich North African state." France and Britain spearheaded the air campaign that ousted Gaddafi.

Although Sarkozy denied talk among Arabs of "under the table deals for Libya's riches", Jalil said key allies could expect preferential treatment in return for their help in ending Gaddafi's rule.

"As a faithful Muslim people," he told reporters in Tripoli, "we will appreciate these efforts and they will have priority within a framework of transparency."

During his talks in Libya, Erdogan will meet Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil. They will hold a press conference.

Premier Erdogan will also visit Benghazi.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim, Energy & Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and National Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz are accompanying Erdogan.

Erdogan, who has visited Egypt and Tunisia this week, has already won plaudits from Libya's new rulers.

"We expect the world community to follow the wonderful support of Turkey, its leading role and effort. Turkey has done an amazing job," Aref al-Nayed, Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, told a recent Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul.

Turkish companies with business in Libya are hoping the Council will honour pending payments once assets are unfrozen, and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has said he wants state-owned oil and gas exploration company TPAO to resume oil exploration and production work in Libya if security is established.

That depends to a large extent on the fate of Gaddafi who, wanted by the International Criminal Court, is rumoured to be hiding in one of the loyalist strongholds.

"Clashes"

After nearly seven months of fighting, anti-Gaddafi forces control most of Libya, including oil-producing centres and the capital Tripoli, which they seized last month.

But they have met fierce resistance in a handful of pro-Gaddafi bastions such as the desert town of Bani Walid, the southern outpost of Sabha and Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace 450 km (280 miles) east of Tripoli which they tried to take on Thursday.

"They have now entered the city. There was a coordinated push from the south, east and west and from along the coast. I'm not sure how far they have been able to enter," said Abdulrahman Busin, military spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC).

"They are coming under heavy fire. There is a particular problem with snipers."

Gaddafi's spokesman said he had thousands of supporters.

"We are telling you that as of tomorrow there will be atrocious attacks by NATO and their agents on the ground on the resisting towns of Sirte, Bani Walid and Sabha," Mousa Ibrahim told Syrian-based Arrai television late on Thursday.

The television said 16 people had been killed in Sirte, including women and children, as a result of NATO bombing, and that Gaddafi forces had destroyed a NATO warship and several vehicles. None of the reports could be independently verified.

In Bani Walid, which anti-Gaddafi forces are wary of storming for fear of alienating a powerful local tribe, residents were still trying to flee, and reported that others were trapped by gunmen.

Agencies

 

Last Mod: 16 Eylül 2011, 14:05
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