* Defiant former leader vows to keep fighting
* Interim PM Jibril warns against rebel in-fighting
* As deadline approaches, clashes around siege towns
(Adds Jibril remarks)
By Alexander Dziadosz and Mohammed Abbas
TRIPOLI, Sept 8 The voice of Muammar Gaddafi
boomed out from his hiding place on Thursday, denying he had
fled Libya and cursing as rats and stray dogs those whose
efforts to start governing in his place are being frustrated by
his die-hard followers.
The man running that interim government, in Tripoli for the
first time since its motley forces seized the capital, hailed a
great victory. But he told his rebel allies that "the tyrant"
was not yet finished and warned against the kind of factional
in-fighting which some see as growing threat to the new Libya.
"This is a stage where we have to unify and be together,"
said interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, who noted Gaddafi
still had bastions of support, two weeks after Tripoli fell.
"Once the battle is finished ... the political game can start."
"If we discover that we are not on common ground, then I
will retreat and leave it to others who may be more capable of
taking part in this experiment," he said.
Earlier, Gaddafi said in what Syria's Arrai TV said was a
live broadcast from Libya: "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.
"Our resolute Libyan people, the Libyan land is your own,"
said the 69-year-old who ran the country from the age of 27
until two weeks ago. "Those who try to take it from you now,
they are intruders, they are mercenaries, they are stray dogs."
Backing up his words, volleys of Grad missiles flew out of
Bani Walid, a desert town south of Tripoli where a hard core of
loyalists -- estimated by their opponents at about 150 -- are
under siege by the new interim government's forces. Some of its
commanders suspect Gaddafi himself might be hiding inside.
Two of the defenders were killed and one of the siege force
wounded in overnight skirmishing, though a military spokesman
for the National Transitional Council said the new rulers would
abide by a truce until Saturday to allow negotiated surrenders
at Bani Walid and Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, on the coast.
"We can do it within two hours maximum," Ahmed Bani said of
taking over Bani Walid. He said he believed Gaddafi's son and
heir-apparent Saif al-Islam was there, though he did not share
the belief of some others in the NTC that his father was.
Referring to the arrivals this week of senior Gaddafi aides
in Niger, across the desert, which prompted talk that Gaddafi
might already have fled Libya, Bani said: "He's a fox. Maybe he
wants us to believe that he's out. But he's inside ... close to
the border so that in an emergency he can escape."
In remarks which clearly indicated he was speaking after the
reports from Niger came out, Gaddafi himself said: "This is not
the first time that convoys drive in and out of Niger."
JIBRIL WARNS FACTIONS
Residents fleeing Bani Walid, 150 km (100 miles) south of
Tripoli, have said Gaddafi loyalists were intimidating people
and supplies were low. Information from the town is limited.
Jibril, head of the NTC's Executive Committee, said the
die-hards in the town appeared set on fighting and warned that,
despite the ceasefire, NTC forces would hit back if fired upon.
Its fighters edged forward to the outskirts of the town late
on Thursday, and exchanges of fire increased.
But on a first visit to establish a presence in the capital
after months touring world capitals drumming up support, Jibril
seemed more concerned about the risk of premature politicking
among those so far united largely by their hatred of Gaddafi:
"Perhaps some thought the tyrant had already left and that
the regime had toppled. And this has brought to the surface some
differences," he told a news conference in a city where militias
from potentially rival political and regional factions have been
staking out territory for the past two weeks.
Despite the sweeping and sudden nature of their victory in
Tripoli two weeks ago after six months of civil war, the new
leadership is still struggling to impose its authority across
the capital and the rest of the sprawling, oil-rich desert
nation which is home to just six million people.
The stalemates around Sirte, Bani Walid and south into the
desert town of Sabha -- all pro-Gaddafi bastions -- means the
original rebel stronghold of Benghazi is still largely cut off
from Tripoli, an 800-km (500-mile) drive away to the west.
NTC leaders have said they hope to be pumping oil again next
week, and the new head of the central bank briefed the media on
Thursday to assure Libyans and their foreign business partners
that the bank had not been looted by fleeing members of the old
regime. Business as usual was the watchword.
Jibril assured people in Tripoli that the NTC would have
completed its move there from Benghazi by the end of next week
-- though previous forecasts have been followed by delays.
Some of that hesitation seems to stem from long-standing
regional rivalries and from a sense that Tripoli may not be a
safe place for every Libyan official, as potential political
rivalries coalesce around the rebel brigades which swept in to
the city from different towns and provinces, eager for a share
of power that for 42 years was in the hands of one man only.
The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said Gaddafi's
capture might not signal the end of the conflict: "It isn't
clear that if he were to be taken out that the whole thing would
necessarily collapse; we just don't know that."
Western officials are also keen to play down the extent to
which they will -- or can -- help track Gaddafi down.
A diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, repeated
alliance statements that NATO was not searching for Gaddafi and
suggested its surveillance did not cover Libya's vast desert.
"It is very expensive and difficult to monitor the entire
country, which is mostly desert and very big," he said, noting
most Libyans lived close to the Mediterranean coast. "Since this
was fundamentally about protecting people, rather than watching
sands, this was where the resources were located."
(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas, Christian Lowe and Alex Dziadosz
in Tripoli, Sherine El Madany in Ras Lanuf, Maria Golovnina in
Wishtata, Barry Malone, Sylvia Westall and Alastair Macdonald in
Tunis, Ahmed Tolba and Edmund Blair in Cairo, Daniel Alvarenga
in Lisbon, David Brunnstrom in Brussels and Joseph Nasr in
Berlin; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Peter Graff)