Rebel-Held Libya Creates Interim Governing Council

In eastern Libya, the Provisional Transitional National Council has announced it is the legitimate government of the country. But it is struggling to organize itself and exert authority. There are also splits within the rebel army as well.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

Those who've taken up arms against Moammar Gadhafi have announced that they are the legitimate government for all of Libya. Still, the rebel group, now calling itself the National Governing Council, is struggling to organize and exert authority, even in the eastern part of the country, where it is the strongest.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from the eastern city of Benghazi.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: On the second floor of the central courthouse in Benghazi, the spokeswoman for the Libyan Provisional Transitional Council, Iman Bugaighis, holds court with the international media that has converged on this sea-side city. This new government has an appointed head, a former justice minister under Gadhafi who resigned after the uprising, a foreign minister and a defense minister. And yesterday they issued their third communiqu�.

Ms. IMAN BUGAIGHIS (Libyan Provisional Transitional National Council): Demands for the world community, this is to be a commission...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They are demanding that the international community halt the flow of arms to Gadhafi, that the oil revenue from the east be diverted into their coffers, and that humanitarian aid be delivered to those in need here. Bugaighis says it's only a matter of time until the regime in Tripoli falls. The council here has rejected a call by Tripoli to negotiate with Gadhafi.

Ms. BUGAIGHIS: We are not worried. Now we have it at individual level. Everybody knows that either us or him. It's personal issue now for everyone -after what the blood which has been shed, there is no return.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But despite the confident demeanor, this is a fledgling government that is struggling. In a room off the main corridor there is arguing.

(Soundbite of shouting)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Soldiers who are just returning from the fighting on the front lines near Ras Lanuf are begging for help. We need supplies, men and ammunition, they tell members of the civilian committee. A guard eventually tells us to stop recording, saying this is a secret meeting. It's the side of what's happening here that the new authority here doesn't want anyone to see.

The main members of the interim government are on the move these days. They hold their meetings in different homes and buildings for fear of assassination attempts by Gadhafi loyalists. There are also fears of bombing raids. That's made communication and coordination difficult.

Idris el Sharif is supposed to be helping the committee with the humanitarian situation in Benghazi. But instead he found himself over the weekend in the town of Brega trying to resupply the rebel army, which is subsisting on candy bars and Twinkies at the front.

Mr. IDRIS EL SHARIF: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The coordination is not very good right now, he says. This started as a protest movement and no one knew they'd end up having to try and run a country. It's difficult to get people to talk to one another, he says. People are divided.

At a nearby military base, Major General Ahmed el-Ghatrani concurs. He's a defected Libyan army commander who is helping coordinate the fighting. He says the youth aren't taking direction from the army. Most have no idea what they're doing, he says.

Major General AHMED EL-GHATRANI: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says the rebels are now facing off against Gadhafi's internal security brigades. That's about 1,500 men armed with tanks, fighter jets and heavy weapons. He says the rebels need to organize if they're going to move forward. The defected military is trying to help, he says, by coming up with a plan, but it's chaos. The military committee is supposed to take its orders from the civilian authority, but clear direction from them has also been lacking, he says.

On the streets of Benghazi there is no doubt what will happen if the rebel fighters fail to defend the east.

Near Benghazi's central market, Hamza al-Farjani says Gadhafi will imprison or kill them all. He says he thinks things will be better under the rebel leadership. As he's speaking, another man begins to argue with him.

(Soundbite of cross-talk)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ahmed Mohammed says he's worried about the future the rebellion is promising. He says everything was better before. These rebels are ruining the country. There's no work. The new council are a bunch of vandals, he says. They continue to bicker, one unable to convince the other of who is right.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Benghazi.

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