Libya delays unveiling new cabinet as battles rage

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Libya
Benghazi (Libya), Sept 19: The birth of a new government in Libya, due on Sunday, was put off indefinitely amid disputes over portfolios and as Muammar Gaddafi diehards put up stiff resistance in their remaining strongholds.

National Transitional Council (NTC) number two Mahmud Jibril said last-minute haggling delayed the announcement of the new cabinet line-up before reluctantly announcing to the media that the unveiling would be postponed indefinitely.

Progress by NTC fighters hoping to crush the last pockets of resistance in Gaddafi bastions also appeared stalemated, as the fugitive's loyalists in his hometown of Sirte and the oasis of Bani Walid refused to yield.

"The announcement of a new transitional government has been postponed indefinitely in order to finalise consultations," Jibril told reporters in Benghazi.

But putting on a brave face, Jibril said much has been achieved to mete out several portfolios, adding that he expected consultations on the rest to be "over quickly."

"But I believe that an essential part of these consultations was completed today." The administration will also look into getting women and young people to play a major role in a new government as deputy ministers and directors general of ministries, he added.

Jibril, a former Gaddafi regime official, has stood accused by some colleagues of failing to consult enough with long-standing grass roots opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jibril himself was expected to retain his post as interim premier, while Ali Tarhuni was touted to be named vice president in charge of economic affairs. 

The defence portfolio was expected to go to Osama al-Juwili and oil to Abdel Rahman bin Yezza. On the battlefield, Gaddafi's diehards in his hometown Sirte and in Bani Walid stood their ground as NTC combatants tried to break their morale by preparing for a new multi-pronged advance.

NTC military spokesman Ahmed Omar Bani said he expected Gaddafi forces in Sirte and Bani Walid to be defeated in a "matter of days," and military commanders said they had gained some ground.

"We are now 38 kilometres (23.5 miles) from Sirte," Mustafa bin Dardaf, a commander with the Zintan Brigade, told AFP on the eastern front.

"Since the morning we have taken 20-25 kilometres. Our fighters at this moment have entered the town of Sultana and are searching for Gaddafi forces.

"There haven't been many civilians fleeing from this side of Sirte, but many have fled out to the southeast," he added.

Another commander, Walid al-Feturi of Al-Qabha Brigade, told AFP the fighters were clearing roads for civilians to flee Sirte.

"We are trying to get out family and children step by step," Feturi said.

Earlier, an AFP correspondent reported that new regime forces advancing from the east had come under steady rocket and machine-gun fire.

A spokesman for Misrata Military Council, the command node for the Sirte offensive, said fighters had been expecting fierce resistance in Gaddafi's hometown but that they were prepared to pay the ultimate price.

AFP

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