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Pro-Gadhafi forces control most of Sabha and large numbers of soldiers — including mercenaries from other African countries — are camped on its outskirts, said Abdul Awidat, a Sabha resident currently in Tripoli.

Awidat told The Associated Press that he has spoken by satellite phone with people in the southern area in the past two days who said pro-Gadhafi forces have taken up positions in buildings and are recruiting young men as fighters and handing out weapons.

“There is no information that Gadhafi or any of his senior leadership are in Sabha,” he added.

Some anti-government protesters have taken over a small part of the town of Gorda, and there has been fighting in the area with several people killed, Awidat said.

He said there is no electricity, running water or regular telephone service, and medicine is running out.

In a boost to the rebel cause, the last prime minister under Gadhafi said he now supports the opposition.

Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi told Al-Arabiya television that had had been in contact with the rebels “and we notified them that we are with the people and we are ready to serve our country in the future.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed Said, an adviser to the interior minister in the rebels’ interim government, said Gadhafi’s foreign minister had been captured. He did not identify him by name, but “can confirm that he is in custody.” A week ago, Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi told British broadcaster Channel 4 that Gadhafi’s rule was over.

Algeria, which gave refuge to Gadhafi’s wife and three of his children this week, has indicated it will not do the same for the longtime dictator.

The Algerian newspaper El Watan reported Gadhafi had also sought sanctuary in Algeria, but the president refused to take his phone calls. Asked Thursday if Gadhafi could be given asylum, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said: “I don’t believe so.”

In Paris, world leaders and top-level diplomats from 60 nations lined up behind the new government and focused on unfreezing billions in Libyan funds held abroad.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said NATO will continue operations for as long as necessary to protect civilians in the North African country. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to decide quickly on deploying a civilian mission to stabilize Libya.

“We cannot afford a failed pariah state on Europe’s borders,” Cameron said. “We will all lose if the Arab Spring gives way to a cynical winter of repression.”

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Libya’s new government must ensure “that we fulfill our side of the deal — we must have security in Libya, tolerance and forgiveness must be promoted, the state of law must be respected.”

Russia, which had criticized the NATO operation, recognized the rebels as Libya’s interim leadership hours before the talks began.

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