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Libya's new leaders try to bolster city fighting Gadhafi forces

Libya's transitional government delivers $16 million to a remote southern city beset by fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to bolster support for revolutionary forces.
/ Source: Reuters

Libya's transitional government delivered 20 million dinars ($16 million) Tuesday to this remote southern city beset by fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to bolster support for revolutionary forces.

Journalists accompanied the oil and finance minister, Ali al-Tarhouni, and the cash on the first flight to touch down in the desert city of Sabha since a NATO enforced no-fly zone order in March.

The 20 boxes of 20-dinar notes, each weighing 116 pounds, were delivered to the Sabha central bank.

Revolutionary forces have gained control of much of the area but still face heavy resistance.

"The forces inside these areas are not opposed to joining us but they do not want to disarm," said Ahmed Bashir, spokesman for Libya's National Transitional Council in Sabha. "They have the weapons and no manpower. We have the manpower and lighter weapons."

More than a month after sweeping into Tripoli and ending Gadhafi's nearly 42-year rule, the fugitive leader's supporters are still putting up a fierce fight on three fronts: in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, the town of Bani Walid southeast of the capital and in pockets in the country's vast desert south, including Sabha. Most of the recent fighting has occurred in Bani Walid and the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte.

Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown, although he has exhorted his supporters to fight on several times in audio messages.

Syrian-based Al-Rai TV, which has become the former regime's mouthpiece, aired video of Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, and said it was taken last week. The same video, however, appears to have been uploaded to YouTube on March 6. A second YouTube video appears to show the same event with an upload date of Feb. 27, early on in the uprising.

Other members of the Gadhafi family have fled to Algeria, where on Tuesday the government ordered them to stay out of politics.

Gadhafi's daughter Aisha angered the new Libyan government by telling the media her father was still fighting to hold on to power.

"It is clear that the message has been passed on to Aisha and the other members of the family that they should, from now on, respect their status as guests in Algeria and remove themselves completely from any political action," Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci was quoted as saying by Algeria's official APS news agency.

Aisha Gadjafi, her brothers Hannibal and Mohammed, their mother Safia and several other family members fled Libya in late August after rebel fighters took control of most of the country.

Algeria's government said it allowed them to enter on humanitarian grounds, but Libya's new rulers, the National Transitional Council (NTC), accused Algeria of an "act of aggression."

Last week, Arrai TV, which gives sympathetic coverage to Moammar Gadhafi and his family, broadcast a message from Aisha.

Message prompts protest
"I reassure you about your leader, oh Libyans," said Aisha, a 35-year-old lawyer. "He is well and thank God his spirits are high. He is carrying his weapon and fighting along with his sons at the fronts."

That broadcast prompted civil society activists in Tripoli to go to the Algerian embassy and submit a protest petition.

Algeria has had rocky relations with the NTC since the start of Libya's rebellion in February.

The NTC accused Algeria's government of backing Gaddafi in the civil war, a charge it denied, while Algiers said the NTC was not committed to tackling the threat to security from al Qaeda's north African wing.

In a step toward repairing relations, Algeria last week said it recognized the NTC as the legitimate government, becoming the last of the Libya's neighbors to do so.