February 27, 2011 / 1:58 PM / 8 years ago

Libya rebels form council, oppose foreign intervention

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Rebels in eastern Libya said on Sunday they had formed a national council, pledging to help free areas of the country still under Muammar Gaddafi’s rule and describing the council as the face of the revolution.

Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the new National Libyan Council that was launched in the eastern city of Benghazi, said the council was not an interim government, was not contacting foreign governments and did not want them to intervene.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was “reaching out” to opposition groups in the east.

Libya has tipped into a political vacuum since an uprising against Gaddafi’s rule erupted on February 17. In places such as Benghazi that have ejected Gaddafi’s loyalists, citizens have set up committees to act as a local authority and run services.

Gaddafi and his loyalists still control Tripoli, but their grip beyond the capital has been shrinking and all of eastern Libya and some areas closer to Tripoli are in rebel hands.

“The main aim of the national council is to have a political face ... for the revolution,” Ghoga told a news conference after the Benghazi gathering to announce the council’s formation.

But he said the council was not an interim government.

“We will help liberate other Libyan cities, in particular Tripoli through our national army, our armed forces, of which part have announced their support for the people,” Ghoga said, but he did not give details about how the council would help.


In Washington, Clinton said the United States was reaching out to Libyans in the east and further west as the revolt moved across the country. “It is too soon to see how this is going to play out,” she added.

She was speaking to reporters before leaving for Geneva to consult with allies on Libya’s crisis.

Although not a direct response to Clinton’s remarks, Ghoga said: “We are completely against foreign intervention. The rest of Libya will be liberated by the people ... and Gaddafi’s security forces will be eliminated by the people of Libya.”

Ghoga dismissed an initiative by former Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil to set up an interim government, describing the move as his “personal view.”

The online edition of the Libya’s Quryna newspaper had said on Saturday that Ajleil had led the formation of an interim administration based in Benghazi, a step that Libya’s dissident envoy to the United States supported.

Ghoga said the membership of the National Libyan Council and its workings was still being worked out.

“It is premature to talk about elections. We still have a capital under siege,” he said.

The spokesman dismissed talk of negotiating with Gaddafi, saying: “In my view ... there is no room for negotiation.”

He insisted that the council was seeking to keep the country united. “There is no such thing as a divided Libya,” he said.

Writing by Edmund Blair in Cairo; Editing by Caroline Drees

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