WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Libya's ambassador to the United States on Saturday threw his weight behind a caretaker government formed by former Libyan justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's grip on power appeared ever more tenuous as his police abandoned parts of the capital Tripoli in the face of a popular revolt that followed uprisings that have toppled authoritarian rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Quryna newspaper's online edition reported on Saturday that Abud Ajleil had led the formation of an interim government based in Benghazi, Libya's second city, in the eastern part of the country now largely free of Gaddafi's control.

"I am supporting the new temporary government which was formed by ... Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil," Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali, who this week broke with Gaddafi, told Reuters.

"We want to support this ... caretaker government until the liberation of all of Libya, which I hope will happen very soon," he added.

Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, also said on Saturday that his delegation supported "in principle" Abud Ajleil's caretaker government.

"In principle we support this government," Dabbashi, one of the first Libyan diplomats to denounce Gaddafi, told Reuters. "We are seeking more information about it, but yes, I think we support it."

Earlier this week, Aujali said he had ceased to represent Gaddafi's "dictatorship," whose 41-year rule of the oil-exporting North African nation appeared to be ebbing in the face of the latest popular revolt in the Arab World.

Reuters correspondents found residents in some parts of the capital barricading their streets and proclaiming open defiance after Gaddafi's security forces melted away.

In the oil-rich east around Benghazi, freed a week ago by a disparate coalition of people power and defecting military units, Abud Ajleil, the former justice minister, announced the formation of an "interim government" to reunite the country.

A State Department spokesman had no immediate comment on Abud Ajleil's announcement.

Aujali, a veteran Libyan diplomat, praised Abud Ajleil.

"He is a very honest man. He was in charge of the justice issue in the eastern part of Libya when the regime asked him to hang an innocent Libyan citizen and he refused," Aujali said.

"I am sure he will gain support of all Libyans and of the international community," he added.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

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