, TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug 23 – 0700 GMT: AFP reporter Imed Lamloum recounts his surprising interview Tuesday morning with Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam in the heart of Bab al-Aziziya:
“The vehicle arrives at one of the entrances to Gaddafi’s sprawling residence, which bears the ragged scars of repeated bombings by the warplanes of NATO… Dozens of pickups and 4x4s, on which machineguns or anti-aircraft guns are mounted, line the route… The car eventually stops in front of the “house of resistance” — the ruins of a building bombed in 1986 by American warplanes in raids which killed Gaddafi’s adopted daughter.
“Seif, sporting a khaki T-shirt, arrives in an armoured 4×4. ‘Get in, quickly’ one of the men accompanying him tells the journalists pointing to another 4×4. The vehicles stop after a few hundred metres next to an empty field lit by lamps. Everyone gets out and Seif accompanied by his guards goes into the meeting with the journalists.
“Some loyalists attach a green Libyan flag behind the chair where Seif is to sit. On a coffee table, they place a small Libyan flag, a Koran and a copy of Gaddafi’s Green Book, the 1975 text in which he laid out his philosophy.
‘Did you see the fighting today?’ Seif asks with a smile.”
0652 GMT: Beijing hopes its “mutually beneficial” multi-billion dollar trade links with oil-rich Libya will continue, a top China trade official has told reporters. “Due to the changes in the Libyan situation recently, our investment activities in Libya have been impacted,” Wen Zhongliang, deputy director of the commerce ministry’s foreign trade department, said.
0640 GMT: China’s state media says the West has a responsibility to “clear up its mess” in Libya after rebels overran the capital Tripoli. “Overthrowing Kadhafi is entertainment for the media, but talk of rebuilding is not,” China’s conservative English-language daily The Global Times said in an editorial.
0635 GMT: China’s largest oil and gas producer has shut down six major projects in war-torn Libya, Syria and other restive nations because of political instability, state media reported. The projects in Libya, Niger, Syria and Algeria were run by Great Wall Drilling Co (GWDC), a subsidiary of the state-owned giant China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the Beijing Times newspaper reported.
0630 GMT: Crude rose in Asia Tuesday as traders monitored the crisis in Libya. Also supporting prices was expectations that it could take years before the North African country’s oil output is back to pre-revolution levels.
Welcome to AFP’s live coverage of the conflict in Libya as a son of Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi claims Tripoli is “under control” of the regime despite advances by rebel forces in the capital.
Here’s a recap at 0620 GMT.
– Seif al-Islam, after being said by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be under arrest, appeared before cheering armed loyalists in the early hours of Tuesday. “Tripoli is under our control. Everyone should rest assured. All is well in Tripoli,” he told journalists outside the compound at Bab al-Azizya, smiling broadly and flashing the V for victory sign despite the rebels’ encroachment. “You have seen how the Libyan people rose up” to fight the rebels who arrived in Tripoli, he said, referring to battles in the capital between Gaddafi loyalists and rebel forces.
– Mohammed Gaddafi, the leader’s eldest son whose arrest had also been announced by rebels, has escaped, the Libyan ambassador to Washington told CNN. Ali Suleiman Aujali with the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) told CNN that Mohammed was apparently taken by “maybe Gaddafi’s forces.” A senior rebel source confirmed the escape to AFP, saying “Yes, it’s true, he has escaped.” The source in the rebel capital of Benghazi, eastern Libya, spoke on condition of anonymity.
– The rebels are hesitant about how to secure the parts of Tripoli not already under their control: whether to advance through broad boulevards, where they could be vulnerable to sniper fire, or to fight through narrow back streets.
– The rebels said they had cut off a column of pro-Gaddafi troops attempting to march on Tripoli from the city of Sirte, the leader’s hometown. The rebels themselves say they are awaiting thousands of reinforcements from around Libya.
– Rebel fighters have seized control of Gaddafi’s state television network and Tripoli’s seaside Green Square.
– US President Barack Obama called for “an inclusive transition” in Libya, demanding that Gaddafi “explicitly” give up power and warning the rebels that their struggles were “not over yet”.
– The situation remained tense at the Rixos hotel, home to some 30 foreign correspondents, where water and power supplies were cut on Monday while pro-Gaddafi soldiers stood guard outside the building.