Libya's new PM Mahmoud Jibril faces growing unrest
Libya's interim prime minister arrived in Tripoli on Thursday for his first public appearance in the capital since was overthrown more than two weeks ago, to face criticism that the country is experiencing a power vacuum.
Mahmoud Jibril's debut press conference coincided with a meeting of revolutionary activists from across who called on the National Transitional Council to show leadership or face potential revolt.
Saoud Elhafi, co-founder of the February 17 Coalition – a reference to the date of the first uprising – told the Guardian that there had been frustration over Jibril's long diplomatic missions abroad.
"There is definitely a vacuum," he said. "He needs to fill this vacuum as soon as possible. He was assigned to form a new government but we are yet to see it. Part of stability is to provide services to the people – otherwise, they will revolt."
Elhafi added: "In the next few weeks you will see change with Mr Jibril. There's a lot of pressure on him now. The honeymoon period for him now is gone. People are coming together to say enough is enough."
He said of Jibril, head of the NTC's executive office: "We notice he is not available. He is mostly outside Libya; you can count on your hands the days he is here. It is not acceptable. He needs to be in touch with the people."
Elhafi, a businessman who spent four months working with fighters and refugees in neighbouring Tunisia, added: "We are not happy about the performance of the executive committee, especially the appointment of ministers without consulting us or other organisations.
"From what I see, they are a bunch of business people. Some of the decisions, we disagree with. The main issue is that we need to consult each other. We need to find the right people."
Jibril admitted that the NTC had got off to a slow start. "I agree there hasn't been a good contact and connection because of what's going on in the liberation of Libya," he said. "We promise after next week we hope to start a national dialogue through the territories of Libya."
But he also rounded on critics for being impatient and playing politics. "There has been an intense campaign against individuals in the NTC. Libyans must answer why this is happening."
He noted that the liberation battle was not yet over, with regime forces still holding out in a handful of towns and Gaddafi himself still at large. "Some of our colleagues have forgotten this. Some felt the old regime has collapsed completely and all of Libya is liberated. Some have made attempts to start the political games before reaching a common consensus on the rules."
Jibril said: "I call on all Libyans, especially the youths, to see this is a stage where we have to unify and be together and have national honour, not to attack each other because the battle is not yet finished. Once the battle is over and the constitution is finished and there is an interim government, the political games can start."
Jibril said he hoped the entire NTC would complete its move from Benghazi to Tripoli by the end of next week. He repeated his pledge not to seek office and refused to comment on whether he knew Gaddafi's whereabouts.
Earlier, about 200 delegates from across the country – a third of them women – attended the February 17 Coalition meeting at a conference centre next to Tripoli's Rixos hotel. The dissenters pointed to cracks in a rebel movement that has been striking in its unity around a common flag and the common goal of toppling Gaddafi.
Abdulrazag Elaraoi, an NTC member from Tripoli, said: "Now comes the real test. Leaders need to lead. If they are not there when the crisis is breaking, they cannot deal with it wirelessly. People want a change. Can do it? People have to decide."
Abdul Rahman Sweehly, a representative from Misrata, said: "This is a warning shot to Mr Jibril and Mr [Mustafa Abdul] Jalil [NTC chairman]. They are deliberately delaying the formation of a transitional government with excuses and excuses. We have to be steadfast in protecting our revolution and stopping people trying to hijack it or turn it around."
Concerns were raised that too many officials from the old order were still wielding influence. Sweehly said: "Look at America or Britain. When a new government comes in, people depart and others take over. Why shouldn't we do the same? For example, when Barack Obama replaced George Bush, there were 4,000 vacant positions."
Another speaker from Misrata called for "a new Libya with new faces, not old ones". He went on: "We shouldn't forgive hands stained with blood or people who stole money from Libya."
He insisted: "We are prepared for another revolution if we have to."
A member of the Tripoli brigade also said: "In the absence of security, the revolution can be hijacked. We go to a meeting and they say, 'We're going to do, we're going to do, we're going to do.' The next day, nothing happens."
A speaker from Benghazi expressed frustration at how the justice ministry and others had not yet been formed. "There are still no courts."
The killing of rebel commander General . Libya's new leaders face a daunting task of establishing security, restoring public services .
A timetable, lasting about 20 months, for the drafting of a constitution and holding of elections should start once the NTC declares Libya's "liberation".
Also in Tripoli on Thursday, the capital's military commander, Abdul Hakim Belhaj, demanded an apology from a senior British official for the first time since learning that MI6 had allegedly played a role in his rendition to Libya seven years ago.
Belhaj, whom the CIA sent to the Gaddafi regime seven years ago after seizing him at Bangkok airport, met Britain's special representative in Libya, Dominic Asquith. Belhaj's spokesman described the meeting as "civilised", but said Asquith had declined to apologise, citing the Gibson inquiry which is investigating the MI6 claims. The allegations emerged from an archive of correspondence between Libyan spies and MI6 found in a ransacked spy headquarters in Tripoli.
A diplomatic source in Tripoli said: "The special representative said that we take these claims very seriously and explained that last year the PM set up the Gibson inquiry to examine whether the security services were involved in the improper treatment of detainees overseas, including rendition.
Overnight, Gaddafi resurfaced on the airwaves to berate his enemies as "rats" and "stray dogs" and insist he was still in Libya to fight on.
In what Syrian broadcaster Arrai said was a telephone call from Libya early on Thursday, the 69-year-old Gaddafi rallied supporters and said surrender was out of the question.
"Our resolute Libyan people, the Libyan land is your own," Gaddafi said. "Those who try to take it from you now, they are intruders, they are mercenaries, they are stray dogs. They are trying to seize our ancestral land from you but this is impossible.
"We will not leave our ancestral land. The youths are now ready to escalate the resistance against the rats in Tripoli and to finish off the mercenaries."
A Libyan military convoy that entered neighbouring Niger across the desert this week has stirred speculation that he might be about to flee.
But, in remarks which clearly indicated he was speaking after those reports were published, Gaddafi said: "This is not the first time that convoys drive in and out of Niger."
Meanwhile, rebel fighters tightened a siege on the town of Bani Walid, where two of Gaddafi's sons may be sheltering. Gaddafi loyalists in the town launched rockets during exchanges of fire.