CAIRO — Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebel council poised to lead Libya once Moammar Gadhafi is toppled, said Monday that rebel forces are still not in control of Tripoli and that pro-Gadhafi forces were still in charge of the loyalist stronghold of Bab al Aziziyah, where Gadhafi's compound is located.
He said restoring order is the interim government's top priority.
The news channel Al Jazeera reported that Gadhafi loyalists were still fighting pitched battles in some parts of the city and that mortar rounds also landed in the capital. An Al Jazeera reporter with rebel forces attempting to advance toward the capital from the city of Zlitan east of Tripoli reported they were meeting fierce resistance.
In a news conference in Benghazi, the rebel's eastern capital, Abdul Jalil said even Libyans who’d previously withheld their support for the uprising would be welcomed as partners — he urged holdouts to join the rebels’ side, saying it was “better late than never.”
He also warned rebels against carrying out revenge attacks and said he’d resign if the opposition didn’t follow the rule of law as they attempt to rebuild Libya after Gadhafi’s four-decade stranglehold on the oil-rich North African nation.
“We are on the threshold of a new era,” Abdul-Jalil said. “We are on the threshold of a new stage where we’ll work to establish the principles of the revolution: freedom, democracy, justice, equality and transparency.”
Abdul-Jalil said Gadhafi’s captured sons were in rebel hands and that they were safe and would be treated in accordance with all international human rights laws. He also said he hoped that Gadhafi would be captured alive and given a fair trial.
Gadhafi’s whereabouts were unknown, but a U.S. official on Sunday had said, “We have no reason to believe (he) has left the country.”
Late Sunday Gadhafi made a brief audio statement on Libyan TV, sounding desperate as he called on individual tribes and cities to “take weapons” and defend “beautiful Tripoli."
"All the tribes, you must all march to Tripoli in order to defend and purify it,” he said, calling the rebels agents of Western powers. “Otherwise you will have no dignity; You will become slaves and servants in the hands of the imperialists.”
But the mercurial leader was nowhere to be seen, and for many Libyans, the regime’s death blow had come anyway with the rebels’ arrest of Saif al Islam, Gadhafi’s feared and powerful son and one-time heir apparent, who’d vowed after the uprising against his father began earlier this year that the regime would fight its opponents “until the last bullet."