- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2011

Libya’s new rulers urged the visiting leaders of Britain and France on Thursday to continue NATO airstrikes in the North African nation as rebels entered one of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s last remaining strongholds.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to the Libyan capital Tripoli and Benghazi, the birthplace of the revolution in the east, on Thursday. They were the first foreign leaders to visit Libya since Col. Gadhafi’s ouster.

Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron met Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council, and Libya’s acting prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril.

Mohamed Benrasali, a senior member of the rebels’ stabilization team for Libya, told The Washington Times the rebels’ representatives asked the European leaders to continue the NATO mission until all of Libya is under their control.

“We called for protection of civilians in towns that have not embraced the revolution,” he said.

The rebels have managed to seize control of most of the country largely with the help of the air cover provided by NATO aircraft.

Mr. Cameron said the NATO mission would continue. “There are still parts of Libya under Gadhafi’s control, Gadhafi is still at large, and we must make sure this work is completed,” he said, according to an Associated Press report.

Mr. Cameron called for the ousted dictator to surrender, saying, “It is time for him to give himself up and time for Libyan people get the justice they deserve by seeing him face justice.”

“It is over. Give up,” the British leader told Gadhafi supporters.

Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy have spearheaded international support for the rebels, and both received a warm welcome Thursday.

In Col. Gadhafi’s birthplace and tribal stronghold, Sirte, rebels entered the outskirts of the city. By Thursday night, rebels from the western city of Misrata had taken control of the airport in Sirte. They expressed confidence that they would have full control by Friday.

The rebels are facing a stiff resistance in two other pro-Gadhafi holdouts — the town of Bani Walid, 90 miles southeast of Tripoli, and the southern city of Sebha.

In their meetings with the European leaders, the rebels sought access to more frozen Libyan assets. Britain has unfrozen $1.6 billion, and about $18 billion remains unaccessible.

Britain and France will introduce a resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Friday to unfreeze more Libyan assets.

The rebels asked Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy to help them capture Col. Gadhafi and members of his family.

They sought stepped-up surveillance for the fugitives and monitoring of their phone conversations.

The rebels said Britain and France also must urge the leaders of countries where Gadhafi family members already have fled to hand them over to the new Libyan authorities.

Col. Gadhafi’s wife, Safiya; daughter Aisha; and sons Mohammed and Hannibal fled to Algeria last month. A third son, Saadi, fled to Niger this month.

Rebels think two other sons, Seif al-Islam and Mutassim, are hiding in Bani Walid.

In meetings on Thursday, the rebel leaders discussed the possibility of Libya getting back its seat at the U.N. Britain and France are expected to introduce a resolution on the matter Friday.

Rebel sources said Mr. Abdel-Jalil will travel to New York next week to attend a session of the U.N. General Assembly.

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