* Al-Obeidi in town near where NTC said Gaddafi hiding
* Recent clashes thought by some to involve deposed leader
GHADAMES, Libya, Sept 30 The military chief of
Libya's new interim government attended a meeting on Friday
between Tuareg tribesmen and local Arabs in the southwestern
town of Ghadames aimed at patching up differences that have
recently spilled over into violence.
The Saharan trading town close to the Algerian border drew
international attention this week when an official of the
interim authorities, the National Transitional Council (NTC),
said deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi was believed to be hiding in
NTC military chief Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi did not
comment on the report or on the hunt for Gaddafi as he prepared
to enter the meeting in the town about 600 km southwest of the
"I am now here to to witness the agreement between Ghadames
and the Tuareg. There has been a problem since July 17," he told
Al-Obeidi, a veteran of the 1969 coup that brought Gaddafi
to power, said he had joined the revolution on the 20th day of
the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
"On the 17th of Ramadan Gaddafi sent me 1,000 weapons to
attack the city of Darnah, but I refused to do that ... and on
the 18th of Ramadan he sent to me mercenaries with the same
intention but I refused. On the 20th of Ramadan I joined
Tuareg tribesmen have fought skirmishes in the Ghadames area
this month with armed groups affiliated to Libya's interim
government, in a conflict that highlighted the challenges
Libya's new rulers face in winning over fractious tribes.
Tuaregs, nomads who roam the desert spanning the borders of
Libya and its neighbours, backed Gaddafi and view the NTC with
NTC officials in Tripoli said at the weekend the town, which
is under the control of their forces, had been attacked by
Gaddafi's military forces, possibly tied to one of Gaddafi's
But other sources have said it was a clash between Tuaregs
and townspeople -- a more worrying version of events for the NTC
because it shows the deep divisions in Libyan society that will
remain even if the last of Gaddafi's forces are defeated.
Many Tuaregs back Gaddafi because he supported their
rebellion against the governments of Mali and Niger in the 1970s
and later allowed many of them to settle in southern Libya.
The tribe is important to regional security because the
Tuareg have huge influence in the vast, empty desert expanses
which are often exploited by drug traffickers and Islamist
militants as a safe haven for their operations.
(Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Barry Malone, Karolina