TRIPOLI, Sep 15 – Libya’s new rulers were preparing to receive British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, as more damaging allegations of serious rights abuses emerged.
The offices of both leaders declined to comment when asked about the trip, but the head of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, confirmed to AFP that Sarkozy would visit.
Sources in Paris said both men were planning to go to Libya on Thursday.
“We say to the leaders coming tomorrow that they will be safe,” said Abdel Jalil.
On Wednesday Jeffrey Feltman, US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said after talks with Abdel Jalil in Tripoli that Washington stood firmly behind the Libyan people.
Feltman is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Libyan capital since its capture from Gaddafi’s forces on August 23.
“This is a victory by the Libyan people and Libya’s destiny must be decided by Libyans alone,” Feltman told reporters.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been reassured after the NTC promised to fully investigate allegations by Amnesty International of abuses by fighters of the new regime, he added.
But the Mali-based Defence of Foreigners in Libya weighed in, accusing Libya’s new authorities of jailing and torturing some 300 foreigners, mostly Tuaregs from Mali and Niger, suspected of being Gaddafi backers.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton also expressed concern.
“Such practices must stop immediately,” she said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) meanwhile reported that more mass graves were being discovered every week.
“Over the past weeks and months, hundreds of families have reported the disappearance of their loved ones in Libya,” said an ICRC statement.
Senior figures in the African Union Wednesday repeated its call for an inclusive government in Libya. The organisation is still to recognise the new leadership in Tripoli.
South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters on Tuesday that the new government should “include all sectors and representatives of all the regions that complete Libya”.
It was not enough for Libya’s new government to be headed by Abdel Jalil, who served as justice minister under Gaddafi, she said.
But the difficulty of bringing together Libya’s various factions was brought into focus by criticism of Abdel Jalil’s number two in the NTC, Mahmud Jibril.
Islamist leader Sheikh Ali Sallabi accused Jibril of “stealing the revolution” and laying the foundations for a totalitarian state by appointing Ali Tarhuni to head the oil portfolio ahead of more experienced managers.
Sallabi, who is supported by Qatar, has played a key role in funding and arming the fighters of the new Libyan leadership.
Across the border in Niger, Gaddafi’s son Saadi was under guard in the capital Niamey after fleeing Libya at the weekend, but NATO acknowledged it had no idea where the toppled despot himself was holed up.
Gaddafi appealed from his hideout for the international community to help his hometown of Sirte, encircled by forces loyal to Libya’s new government.
“It is the duty of the world not to leave (Sirte) alone, and everyone must assume their international duty and immediately come to stop this crime,” Gaddafi said in a message broadcast on Syrian-based Arrai Oruba television.
NATO stressed Gaddafi was not a target in the daily bombing campaign it has kept up against his remaining forces, which still control a swathe of the coast around Sirte and a string of Saharan oases.
Gaddafi’s forces continued to mount attacks against NTC fighters in a few areas, including the town of Bani Walid, one of the deposed strongman’s last bastions of support, southeast of Tripoli.
Gaddafi, wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, remains in hiding but many of his inner circle