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Also Thursday, the rebels moved closer to bringing all of Libya under their control by capturing the airport in Sirte, Col. Gadhafi’s birthplace and his tribal stronghold.

And the international police agency Interpol issued a “red notice” for another of Col. Gadhafi’s sons, Saadi Gadhafi, who is living in Niger, where he fled this month.

Nigerien Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said Mr. Gadhafi would not be extradited.

Col. Gadhafi’s whereabouts are unknown.

Qatar was among the first countries to recognize the rebels' council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Early in the uprising, which began in February, it helped the rebels sell oil, and its air force participated in enforcing a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya.

Qatari flags fly in Libyan cities as a sign of appreciation for its support.

However, this support from an absolute monarchy for a democratic uprising has raised some eyebrows.

“There is still an enormous amount of gratitude toward Qatar,” said Nizar Mhani, a Britain-based doctor who spent seven months in Libya, where he co-founded the Free Generation Movement in support of the rebels. “Questions are cropping up: Why was Qatar so extraordinarily helpful?”

A Western diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it is obvious that Qatar is jockeying for a bigger role in the region.

“They are trying to announce themselves on the world stage,” he said.

Qatar’s actions, in part, have been influenced by Sheik Ali Salabi, a prominent Libyan Islamic scholar who lives in the Qatari capital, Doha. He frequently travels to Libya and has delivered personally some of the Qatari aid to fighters on the front lines.

Mr. Salabi has close ties to Mr. Belhaj. The sheik’s brother, Ismail, is the commander of a powerful rebel brigade in eastern Libya.

The Salabi brothers have been critical of some of the rebel leaders. Ali Salabi described them as “radical secularists” backed by the West. He has been especially critical of acting prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, and has warned that the NTC is leading Libya into a “new era of tyranny” that would be worse than that of the Gadhafi regime.

Writing in London’s Guardian newspaper this week, Mr. Belhaj warned outside powers not to “impose leaders” on Libya.

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