Rebel officials have given Gaddafi’s loyalists in Sirte a deadline. They have until Saturday to surrender or the new National Transitional Council, NTC, will start attacking. They say time is running out.
The National Transitional Council has been struggling to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict, but hopes of a final surrender are fading.
For fear of civilian casualties, rebel forces have been reluctant to advance further but now warn Gaddafi troops to lay down their weapons by Saturday or face attack from the 10,000 troops that now surround the city.
Deputy prime minister of the NTC, Ali Tarhouni, said in a press conference in Tripoli, “Unfortunately, to preserve blood sometimes you have to shed blood. The sooner we get this done, the less blood that will be shed.”
He said they have noticed daily improvements in the situation in Libya’s capital, but shortages of fuel, food and water threatened to dampen Wednesday’s Eid celebrations.
Some banks begin to open for the first time in weeks. Hundreds lined up outside waiting for up to four hours to withdraw their limit of 250 dinar (about $210). This is because they have not collected salaries for months.
Tarhouni, who is also the minister of oil and finance, said solutions to Tripoli’s shortages were just days away. With a United Nations agreement to unfreeze $1.5 billion in Libyan assets and a loan of $350 million from the UAE, Tarhouni announced government salaries would commence again in the coming days.
He said water supplies, which were sabotaged by Gaddafi loyalist as they fled south from Tripoli would be restored to the capital shortly. Repair work began 3 days ago on wells that form the major source of Tripoli’s water supply.
Tarhouni announced that the NTC had a “very good idea” where Gaddafi is: “We have no doubt we will catch him.”
As rebels planned their advance on Sirte, NATO also vowed to continue their support.
NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) spokesperson Col Roland Lavoie said in a press conference in Naples, “The pro-Gaddafi troops that we see are not in total disarray, they are retreating in an orderly fashion,” he said adding Gaddafi was still demonstrating his “capability to exercise some level of control and command.”
NATO have been assisting rebel ground troops with air and missle strikes under a U.N. Security Council mandate since March 19.