Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s grip on Libya slipped further yesterday after his former justice minister announced a transitional government and US President Barack Obama urged him to step down immediately.
Former Libyan justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil told al-Jazeera a transitional government would lead the country for three months to prepare for elections.
Abdel Jalil, who quit Qaddafi’s regime on Monday last week in protest at the killing of demonstrators, said the transitional government included military as well as civilian representatives.
“Our national government has military and civilian personalities. It will lead for no more than three months and then there will be fair elections and the people will choose their leader,” he told al-Jazeera television.
Abdel Jalil was speaking from al-Baida, east of Benghazi, which has been the hub of an anti-government rebellion that left many eastern cities free of Qaddafi’s 41-year rule.
It was not immediately clear whether other cities that liberated themselves had coordinated the move with Abdel Jalil.
Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, a spokesman for civic organizers in Benghazi, had earlier on Saturday announced the formation of a city council there, which would send representatives to other cities to coordinate with similar organizations.
Benghazi Councilor Fathi Baja said yesterday that Abdel Jalil was chosen by the committees running the eastern Libyan cities now in the rebellion’s hands.
Ghoqa said each council’s coordinator would eventually become a member of a transitional government.
No clearly established leadership hierarchy has emerged in eastern Libya since the anti-regime protests began on Feb. 15.
It was not immediately unclear how much support the proposed provisional leadership commands.
Abdel Jalil ruled out any negotiations with Qaddafi, saying the embattled leader must step down.
He added that Islam would be a reference point for the Lybian government, which would “-respect all religions.”
Meanwhile, the impending showdown in Libya came as elsewhere in a turbulent Middle East swept by a wave of popular unrest, powerful tribes abandoned Yemen’s increasingly embattled ruler and Bahrain’s king reshuffled his Cabinet.
The escalating revolt against Qaddafi, which one of his diplomats to the UN said killed thousands, has emboldened tens of thousands of protesters across the Arab world to step up demands for historic reforms.
After protests in Tunisia and Egypt forced out longtime leaders Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, Qaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh now face the most serious threats to their decades of grip on power.
Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam told Dubai-based al-Arabiya television protesters trying to topple his father were being manipulated and the situation had “opened the doors to a civil war.”
“Our Arab brothers pay monthly salaries to journalists and tell them to write and incite against Libya, write against Muammar Qaddafi,” he said.
People in “three-quarters of the country are living in peace” he said, denying that African mercenaries had been recruited to crack down on protesters.
In a rabble-rousing speech that presaged a bloody battle for the capital, Qaddafi told frenzied supporters in Tripoli’s Green Square on Friday the rebels would be defeated.
Meanwhile, Protests sweeping the Middle East have railed against poor public infrastructure and demanded broader political reforms in some of the world’s most corrupt and tightly censored countries.