ABU DHABI (AFP) – Major powers met Thursday to plot out what US officials call a democratic “post-Gaddafi Libya” as the rebels warned the talks would be a failure if they secured no concrete financial support.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and counterparts from NATO and other countries participating in air strikes against Moamer Gaddafi’s regime held their third round of Libya talks in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.
The minister of oil and finance in the Libyan rebel council, Ali Tarhoni, said the rebels would start producing 100,000 barrels of oil per day “soon” from eastern fields under their control.
But while such output will one day bring in more revenue, he said he hoped the third meeting of the International Contact Group “will establish a financial mechanism” to help the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC).
“If no financial concrete support comes out of this conference, we will consider that a total failure,” Tarhoni warned.
He said he hoped that at very least West governments would extend loans to the opposition secured on the billions of dollars of assets of the Gaddafi regime frozen abroad.
The opposition has complained that it has seen nothing concrete since the group last met on May 5 in Rome when the powers agreed to set up a fund to aid the rebels and promised to tap frozen assets of Gaddafi’s regime.
“We understand the (NTC’s) frustration but again the international community isn’t going to let the (NTC) go under financially,” a US official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The contact group was to debate a “mechanism” through which aid “can flow in a transparent and accountable manner,” the official said.
US officials said the United States would urge Arab countries to offer more funds to the rebel administration based in Libya’s second city of Benghazi.
Two dozen countries, including key NATO allies Britain, France and Italy, as well as delegates from the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Conference are attending the talks.
Libya, a key crude-exporting nation that was producing some 1.7 million barrels a day (bpd) before the rebellion broke out in mid-February, has seen its output slashed since the revolt began.
According to the International Energy Agency, Libya’s exports averaged 1.49 million bpd before the uprising, with 85 percent of that going to Europe.
A small number of export shipments have been made from rebel-held territory, delivered to market through Qatar Petroleum in an exemption to the sanctions.
But rebels said last month they had no immediate plans to resume significant oil exports as their priority was to ensure oil installations were made secure.
The talks in Abu Dhabi come after President Barack Obama said NATO’s bombing mission in Libya, launched in March, was forging “inexorable” advances that meant it was only a matter of time before Gaddafi quits power.
As the military, political and economic pressure mounts on Gaddafi’s four-decade grip on power, the contact group will discuss “what a post-GaddafiLibya ought to look like,” a senior US official said.
Such a place should be a “unified state, (a) democratic state with a smooth transition,” the official said before Clinton arrived for the talks.
A second official said the NTC had set up shadow ministries in Bengahzi and named a civilian to head the military in readiness forGaddafi’s eventual departure,
The international community has begun to talk among themselves and with the rebel administration about how to offer security and basic services to the people of Tripoli when the Libyan capital is freed, he said.
However, the official added that Washington cannot say whether the NTC “is ready to assume complete control.”
He also cautioned that there is no international consensus over when Gaddafi should leave power, where he should go, or even whether he should leave Libya.
The talks among the powers came after loud explosions rocked the Libyan capital near Gaddafi’s compound for another straight night, an AFP correspondent reported.
The Western alliance said it carried out 47 strike sorties on Wednesday, hitting a vehicle storage facility in Tripoli and a missile storage facility, a missile site, a command and control facility, a tank, and four armoured fighting vehicles just outside.
NATO said it also hit an electronic warfare vehicle and a military training camp near Libya’s third-largest city Misrata.
The Mediterranean coastal city is the most significant rebel-held enclave in western Libya and a rebel spokesman said up to 3,000 Gaddafi troops attacked it in a three-pronged movement from the south, west and east on Wednesday.
Twelve people were killed and 33 wounded in the fighting in which Gaddafi’s forces deployed gunships, tanks and Grad rocket launchers as well as mortars, the spokesman, Hassan al-Galai, told AFP by telephone from the city.