(Reuters) – Libya’s new masters meet their Western backers in Turkey on Thursday to secure funds and make plans for a future without Muammar Gaddafi after they announced a million dollar bounty for his capture.
Two days after rebel forces overran his Tripoli headquarters and trashed symbols of his 42-year rule, scattered pockets of loyalist diehards kept the opposition fighters at bay as they hunted Gaddafi and his sons. Rebels also reported fighting deep in the desert and a standoff around Gaddafi’s tribal home town.
In Tripoli, rockets and shooting kept largely kept civilians indoors and gunfire rang out in the centre. Most were anxious but hopeful the war would soon end, and with it the worsening shortages of food, water and medical supplies — both for hundreds of wounded and for the sick.
“The end will only come when he’s captured, dead or alive, said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), who offered amnesty to any of Gaddafi’s entourage who killed him and announced a reward worth more than $1 million for his capture.
Jalil said on Sunday rebel forces would halt their offensive if Gaddafi announced his departure and give him and his sons safe passage out of the country.
There was no clear indication of where Gaddafi is, though his opponents surmised he was still in or around Tripoli after what Gaddafi himself described as a “tactical” withdrawal from his Bab al-Aziziya compound before it was captured on Tuesday.
But Western leaders and the rebel government-in-waiting have lost no time readying a handover of Libya’s substantial foreign assets. Funds will be required to bring relief to war-battered towns and develop oil reserves that can make Libya rich.
After talks with Arab and Western allies in Qatar on Wednesday, a senior rebel leader said the NTC would seek to have $5 billion in frozen assets released to jump-start the country’s economy and provide vital relief to its citizens. The amount is higher than a previously given estimate of $2.5 billion.
Meanwhile, the United States submitted a draft resolution to the U.N Security Council to unfreeze $1.5 billion in Libyan assets. No vote was held on the draft on Wednesday, but diplomats said a vote could come on Thursday or Friday.
Senior diplomats will meet in Istanbul later for a Libya Contact Group meeting to discuss the next steps for the country. While Libya is rich in oil, four decades of rule by personality cult has left it with few institutions of normal governance.