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CONNECT THE WORLD
US Readies for Irene; Libya in Transition; Gadhafi Loyalists Attacked Al Brega Oil Tanks; What's Next for Libya? Conflicting Interests Inside Opposition May Hamper Transition; National Transitional Council Gaining Friends; Transition to Power; Libya's Frozen Assets; Libya's Role in Africa; Rebuilding Libya
Aired August 24, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And driving out of the Rixos, we're driving through the deserted streets, I have to say, of Tripoli, to, you know, to our freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Relief at last -- dozens of foreign journalists held captive in the Libyan capital are finally freed. But across the city, fierce firefights as Libyan rebels battle to control the airport. They are desperate to cut off an escape route for Moammar Gadhafi. His whereabouts still a mystery.
Tonight, as Libya attempts to put its past behind it, we ask, is the country's new leadership ready for the future?
These stories and more tonight from CNN as we connect the world.
Moammar Gadhafi wanted dead or alive -- Libyan rebels offering new incentives tonight, eager to declare victory once and for all. Well, rebels control much of Tripoli, but they are still fighting regime loyalists in several areas, including at the international airport. Now, rebels believe that government forces are trying to clear an escape route for Gadhafi. The opposition wants to prevent that, offering amnesty for any Gadhafi supporter who captures or kills him instead. Local businessmen sweetened with the deal, throwing in a nearly $2 million reward.
Also today, we learned that rebels are getting extra help on the ground. Special forces from Britain, France, Jordan and Qatar are stepping up operations in Tripoli and other cities around the country. And just a short time ago, News that four Italian journalists have been kidnapped in Zawiya. Italy's foreign ministry says it believes they were taken by pro- Gadhafi forces.
Well, for another group of international journalists, though, today brought long-awaited freedom. Dozens have been trapped by Gadhafi loyalists for days in Tripoli's Rixos Hotel, held essentially as hostages.
Now, CNN's correspondent, Matthew Chance, and producer Jomana Karadsheh, were among them. As you can imagine, there were tears of relief as the ordeal was over. We couldn't give specifics while they were being held, but today, Matthew acknowledged, quote: "We didn't know if we were going to live or die."
Here's what he told CNN's Kyra Phillips minutes after he was freed.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have now left the compound of the Rixos Hotel, all of the 36 journalists that were kept inside, essentially against their will, in what we all considered all along to be a hostage crisis, have not been -- a hostage situation, rather -- have now been allowed to go out. So it's been a very complicated, a very frightening, a very, you know, emotional roller coaster over the past five days.
I can tell you, we're sitting in vehicles of the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross. We managed to negotiate the Red Cross to get in through the checkpoints of the Gadhafi loyalists, perhaps the only remaining Gadhafi loyalist checkpoint in Tripoli if the reports that we've heard inside the hotel are to be believed.
And we got all the journalists into these four cars plus a civilian car. And we're now driving out of the Rixos. We're driving through the deserted streets, I have to say, of Tripoli to -- you know, to our freedom, essentially. It's been an absolutely -- it's been an absolute nightmare for all of us. You know, there are -- who have been, you know, as a result of this emotional release, the fact that we've -- we've got out of the hotel are -- are crying. Emotions are running very high.
We -- we went through rebel checkpoint. The rebel checkpoint all along was just about, what, 150 meters down the road from the Rixos Hotel. They hadn't approached the hotel, presumably because they didn't want a big gunfight to take place where all those international journalists have been holed up over the course of the past five days.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And it's been a while since...
CHANCE: (INAUDIBLE) to the moment.
PHILLIPS: That's OK, Matthew.
And you let me know if it's not safe to talk. I mean this is the -- you've finally been able to get out of this hotel.
I want to ask you, though, were you ever threatened?
Were you ever told to say or not say anything?
Give us a feel for what was being said to you and also a feel for your safety.
CHANCE: Well, we've been in -- frankly, we've been -- we've been living in -- in fear for the past five days, because we've been, you know, really being held against our will by these, you know, crazy gunmen who were in the lobby of our hotel wearing green bandanas, waving Gadhafi flags, wielding around their Kalashnikov assault rifles. They've been hostile towards us at times. They've -- they've often told us about how they think we're spies, NATO spies and, you know, set on -- bent on destroying Libya.
We've been up all night. We've been up all night for the past five nights, frankly, trying to go through every possible scenario, trying to negotiate our release, trying to get out of this situation using whatever means.
And, you know, we were confronted with these guys in the -- in the lobby of the hotel who were, you know, they're basically, you know, the kind of die-hard Gadhafi loyalists, except for one. And -- and he was always really nice to us. And he was a -- he was a bit of an older guy.
And, you know, I saw this incredible scene today. I don't know quite what happened, but some of our Arab-speaking colleagues were speaking to him, presumably convincing him that, yes, history is being made around him, that the world has changed outside the gates of the Rixos Hotel.
He was following orders, basically being told to keep us there. He didn't realize, perhaps, or he didn't believe that Tripoli has basically fallen, for the most part, to the rebels.
And so when he was convinced of that, you know what, he surrendered his guns. Two of them surrendered their guns. Those guns were disabled and cast aside. And, you know, the whole atmosphere became one of finally, finally, we think, you know, we're going to be able to -- to move out.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: All right. OK. When I say journalists, of course, Matthew a CNN correspondent there. Jomana Karadsheh, our producer there. And you saw a number of photographers, cameramen, as well. So remember, when we talk about journalists, we're talking about the teams who are or were there at the hotel.
Matthew had a chance to walk around the streets of Tripoli just earlier, after he'd been released, really seeing the city for the first time in five days.
He told us that he was surprised by the changes.
Have a listen to this.
CHANCE: This is general strike, when we came a number of times during our stay at the Rixos before it all went so ugly. We were brought here by our government minders. And it was a very empty place, not very many people around, people not very happy to talk to us, sort of avoiding the cameras and things like that.
And, you know, what I will say is that coming out here, for the first time in, you know, in a week, since these dramatic developments, since, you know, the whole world has changed for the people of this country.
I mean look at the difference. People are celebrating. They're firing weapons in the air. The floor is filled with the casings of Kalashnikov rounds.
And people just feel, Jim, you know, they feel like they're -- I mean they look like they're happy. They looked grim before. They look happy now. And so, you know, just -- just coming out of it, you know, coming out of this situation I've been in, you know, people seem very, very happy. They seem that, you know, that -- that something's lifted from -- from them in this city.
And I, you know, I feel pretty similar to that myself.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: That was Matthew Chance.
Well, reliving the first moments of freedom there with the other journalists, of course, as it happened earlier today in Tripoli. And find out why he credits his producer with winning their freedom, Jomana there.
That is on "BACK STORY" less than an hour from now here on CNN.
Well, the Libyan rebels say they control about 80 percent of Tripoli. But they are still battling pockets of resistance in the capital.
Here are the latest hot spots. Let's just see -- get you a sense of where we are when we're talking about what's going on. Let's talk here about the airport, for example. Down to the south of the city, where rockets from Gadhafi loyalists rained down on rebel fighters today, CNN's Arwa Damon and her team are the only journalists reporting from there. Abu Salim, of course and the Rixos Hotel, which is just about here. You've seen that Matthew was there and joins me now there held for five days by Gadhafi forces before being released.
Rebels storming into Gadhafi's compound just about here earlier on Tuesday, you remember. But today, CNN's Sara Sidner witnessed rockets fired into the compound by Gadhafi loyalists elsewhere in the city.
And, finally, Gadhafi forces -- here, Al Hadba. It's a neighborhood in the western part of the city.
Well, CNN's Sara Sidner is also out in the streets of Tripoli. At times, she sounded, well, hard to talk over the rounds of celebratory gunfire.
Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can walk over and -- and talk to these folks. And what's happening is -- I'm going to kind of let the camera pan just a bit.
What's happening is, there's a lot of shooting going on on this side. But the reason why it sounds so close, Hassan Deed (ph), my cameraman is trying to get you a shot.
OK, look at this truck that's going to pass -- pass by.
You see that truck?
That truck is going around the square blowing off rounds. There's another truck with about five men in it all holding AK-47s. They're blowing off rounds. There's guys here with Kalashnikov rifles. They're blowing off rounds. There are cars. Now if you'll -- if you'll notice, in just a few seconds, you will see a car filled with children sitting on the outside holding the flag. Here it comes here. Sandi (ph) was just trying to get you a shot -- a flag, children holding the flag on the outside, sitting up on the car. So there are some of the residents we've been telling you about.
But -- but I mean look, they are not protected. They are leaning out of the car. There are guns all around. And I think people just generally have the sense that they just want to celebrate. They -- they're not thinking about some of the issues with this gunfire. They want to be here, because they want to say that they are no longer silenced by the Gadhafi regime.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: Sara Sidner in Tripoli for you today.
Well, as the rebels try to solidify their grip on power, their prized target remains elusive.
Where can Moammar Gadhafi go?
We're going to take a look at his dwindling options, after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): I call to all Libyans, tribesmen, youth, seniors, women and loyal fighters to clear the city of Tripoli and eliminate the criminals, traitors and rats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: An apparent call to arms from Moammar Gadhafi there, broadcast on Tuesday night. So far this Wednesday, at least, no word from the missing leader, as rebels continued their sweep across Tripoli.
They are still battling pockets of resistance at the airport and elsewhere in the city, as they try to solidify their grip on power.
But Gadhafi is nowhere to be found. The U.S. says there is no evidence to indicate that he has left Libya and there are still several towns where he could safely hide if he can reach them.
Let's take a look at those.
Sirte is just under 400 kilometers southeast of Tripoli. Now, Gadhafi was born in a Bedouin tent there. And the city has been a center of support throughout the conflict.
But looking at Sirte in relation to Tripoli. Running between the city is Misrata, which is held by rebel forces, it will be difficult for Gadhafi to both escape Tripoli and pass through Misrata. We're even hearing tribal leaders may be negotiating a surrender to rebels.
Now, another city Gadhafi's former aide says could offer shelter is about 600 kilometers south of Tripoli. That is Sabha. It's another traditional center of support for him. And a rebel spokesman has said his forces here are fighting foreign mercenaries who could be protecting Gadhafi as he makes a final stand in this stronghold.
There is also talk that he could still be in Tripoli. Rebels are struggling to control an area to the end of the airport today. The fight suggesting, to them, at least, that loyalists might be protecting a high profile figure in the facility.
CNN's Arwa Damon is at the airport.
She's been there exclusively for the past two days.
She and her team are the only journalists reporting from there.
And she joins us now live.
What is the situation there at the moment -- Arwa?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the artillery is still on. Glowing, there's currently a plane up in flames on the tarmac. And there has been pretty heavy machine gun fire. We've actually ended up moving our live position inside because of the increasing artillery.
The broad was quite simply too intense. The rounds were whizzing over our heads.
And it has been pretty much like this for the better part of the day. Earlier in the morning, Gadhafi loyalists were firing Grad rockets. And then in the afternoon, it pretty much turned into this intense barrage of mortar fire.
Now, what the rebels are telling us is that they're struggling to be able to fire back, because they say that the Gadhafi forces have been using villages in the area to the east as cove for them to be able to launch these attacks.
The rebels say that they are quite concerned about returning fire, trying to make sure that whatever artillery they do use, they collaborate it so that it falls short of -- of the villages, of the homes.
They're worried about civilian casualties. They are saying that that is also what is preventing NATO from firing on these Gadhafi forces' positions.
But I's growing increasingly frustrating for them because all that we have been seeing is the artillery barrage continue to intensify.
And senior commanders here tell us that they believe that the assault that's happening on numerous fronts, continuously on this airport complex is directly linked to Gadhafi's whereabouts. They believe that Gadhafi loyalists are either trying to figure some sort of a route for Gadhafi to be able to escape from Tripoli or that he is already traveling through this area to the east, through the farmlands. They believe that he is going to be trying to move south or perhaps loop around to Sirte, located to the east of the capital.
ANDERSON: So how many rebels are trying to defend and control the airport, more or less?
And how many -- or is there any sense of just how many loyalist fighters are actively trying to grab control at this point?
DAMON: There's no clear sense as to how many Gadhafi fighters may actually be out there. Those that are out there, that the fighters are absolutely to actually see using the spotters that they use ahead, they say, are in small clusters.
But remember, they're entrenched in these enclaves.
As for the rebel fighting force, they number over 500, 600, we are being told. They're constantly being sent in reinforcements. But remember, units from here also have been trying to deploy to other areas. And they're also still trying to make sure that they're protecting the area to the west and to the south of the airport, because they want to make sure that they're not losing land to Gadhafi's forces either.
ANDERSON: When was the last time that the airport was actually functioning, Arwa?
DAMON: Well, when you look at the tarmac, it doesn't seem like it's been functioning for -- for quite some time now, presumably since the no fly zone was put into place, although we do know that some U.N. flights, humanitarian aid flights were coming in, although I'm not entirely sure which airport they were landing at. The terminal here has been deserted. Actually, one part of it was turned into something of a detention facility for prisoners that the rebels said they -- they managed to detain.
And the aircraft that are on the runway, Europe are, as far as we can tell, all various Libyan airlines.
ANDERSON: All right.
Arwa Damon at the airport.
It seems suspicious, but as yet, we really have no confirmation that Gadhafi is or may be in the area. But certainly a fierce forefront continues.
Arwa, thank you for that.
And do remember, I mean Arwa and I were talking at this time last night. We're talking 24 hours now, where this fight has continued.
So it certainly is not over by any stretch of the imagination in Tripoli. The airport, of course, to the south of the city.
Stay with CNN for the latest from Tripoli, as the search for Moammar Gadhafi continues.
Also ahead this hour here on this show, security in Libya -- who is really in charge?
Fears now growing that the situation could spiral out of control if the next leaders or leadership fails to secure the country's weapons. That next here on CNN.
ANDERSON: Well, yesterday, there were scenes, you'll remember, of jubilation in Tripoli. The rebels finally storming Moammar Gadhafi's compound, seizing weapons from there and other trophies. But the aftermath does bring some fears over Libya's vast weapons stockpiles, who is in control of them and how they could be used. The worry is that they could fall into the wrong hands in the chaos of Gadhafi's downfall.
Well, one of NATO's biggest concerns is ensuring that the stockpile of weapons is safe. U.N. officials confirming today that there have been discussions over the security of mustard gas supplies south of Tripoli.
More on that from CNN's Barbara Starr for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Moammar Gadhafi's Tripoli compound is looted for weapons, the new Libya still has the old inventory of artillery, rockets, missiles and chemical weapons agents that could make a terrorist's head spin.
JAMES (SPIDER) MARKS, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE CENTER: Al Qaeda could be looking at this and licking their lips, knowing that this is an opportunity to do some open market shopping, if you will.
STARR: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is warning, quote: "We must ensure that Gadhafi's stockpiles of advanced weapons, chemical weapons and explosives don't fall into the wrong hands."
U.S. officials tell CNN they hope the National Transitional Council can control the stockpiles.
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I would hope and expect that the -- the new government would be interested in doing that.
STARR: But military intelligence experts say that shouldn't be too comforting.
MARKS: Where is it located?
Who has the keys to the facility?
And who knows who's supposed to be in there and what are they doing about it routinely to ensure it doesn't grow legs, it doesn't disappear?
STARR: So what weapons are there?
The number one concern, the 10 tons of the deadly blister agent, mustard gas, which is stored in a facility located south of Tripoli. And other agents that could be used to make deadly sarin gas.
In addition to the thousands of hand-held weapons, there are perhaps as many as 300 SCUD surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, rockets and artillery.
The chemical material could not quickly be put into weapons form, but what is Libya's new power brokers can't be trusted with Gadhafi's one time arsenal?
MARKS: What we are focused on is this transitional period, the final collapse of Gadhafi. That's important. But there has to be someone who is paying attention.
STARR: (on camera): Even now, NATO and the U.S. are using drones, aircrafts and satellites to keep watch 24-7 on Libya's weapons sites to make sure security is maintained.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: Well, joining me now in the studio is a friend of this show.
We've spoken with Guma El-Gamaty over the last, what is it, six months now on the situation in Libya.
He's a British-based coordinator for the National Transitional Council, joining me now, as I say, live in the studio.
Great times, of course, for you, and it's, as we said just before we started taking some time.
The big question, of course, tonight is where is he?
GUMA EL-GAMATY, U.K. COORDINATOR, NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL: Well, first of all, may I, Becky, say that we are very pleased that your colleagues and the other international journalists are now out of the Rixos safe. That's really great news. We are sorry about the four Italian journalists who have been reported as kidnapped today. We hope that they are safe and they will be free soon, as well.
ANDERSON: Thank you.
EL-GAMATY: The new Libya we want is that we want all journalists to move around freely and -- and cover whatever they want freely, which I hope they will be able to do very soon.
EL-GAMATY: The Rixos Hotel is one of the places that have been associated with Gadhafi hiding in the past, simply because there is a tunnel. We are pretty sure that there is a tunnel that comes out of the Bab al-Azizia barracks and leads straight into the basement of the Rixos Hotel, some one mile away. So -- but now, he's probably not -- not there. Unlikely.
We believe that there are other tunnels who lead out from Bab al- Azizia to various other parts of the city like the Mitiga Air Base, like the port or the harbor area and so on.
So where is he?
Most likely he's still hiding somewhere within Tripoli or very close to Tripoli. It is unlikely that he's gone, he has strayed far away from -- from Tripoli.
There is one or two areas like Hadbar (ph), like Abu-Salim, where some of his loyalists and diehard supporters are still holding, with some machine guns. So he could be -- he could be there. He could be somewhere else.
ANDERSON: What do you think, Guma, of the stockpiles of what might be -- I see, well, some people will perceive as weapons of mass destruction, mustard gas, for example?
What do we know of this?
And if it exists, is it safe?
EL-GAMATY: Well, I've heard earlier today one, I think an American official, say that they believe that they are safe. I'm hoping that they are. And I don't think, at this point, Gadhafi is in a position to give orders to use such deadly weapons. And I hope even if he does, nobody will obey those orders.
ANDERSON: Let's talk about the NTC, of which, of course, you're a spokesman here in the UK. And you seem to have done a jolly good job over the last six months of making sure that their name is out there and that they are considered a -- an organization to at least be considered reputable.
The risk, of course, for them now comes in two forms, one of which is a lack of security, compounded by the widespread availability of weapons and tribal and ethnic discord.
How concerned are you about the security vacuum that exists today?
EL-GAMATY: As Tripoli is being liberated as we speak, the top of our priorities now is to stabilize Tripoli, to make sure that there is law and order, that there is safety, that everybody can be safe, especially the inhabitants. Tripoli has got almost two million population, a third of the overall Libyan population.
So that is stabilization of Tripoli and making it safe is the top of - - of our priorities.
And we hope that within a few days, these pockets and remnants of Gadhafi will be cleared out and then, you know, the -- the fighting will stop and then people can feel safer and they can move around and resume some sort of normality in their life. The freedom fighters and -- and other people who are working with the NTC are now working very hard to make sure that there is some sort of order in Tripoli and that people can be safe.
ANDERSON: And Mahmoud Jibril, of course, in Doha yesterday, the chair of the executive board of the interim government, suggesting that, one, the security issue is extremely important. That's something they will address. And, two, that they will get government officials from Benghazi to Tripoli as quickly as possible so that people don't feel that the country is divided.
You're going to stay with me through this next hour.
We thank you for the time being for that.
We're going to take a very short break at this point.
Don't go away, though.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.
When we come back, we're live from Eastern Libya, where an oil hub is said to be in rebel hands and storage tanks have been burning. You can see the pictures here. We're going to find out more about this after this short break.
Stay with us.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: All right, we're going to be -- you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, the world's news leader. We're going to continue our coverage of the battle for Libya in just a moment. First, I want to get you a check of the other headlines this hour here on CNN.
The Syrian government's crackdown on protesters has prompted the US and European members of the UN Security Council to push for tighter sanctions. Their draft resolution calls for an arms embargo, a travel ban, and an asset-freeze.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been talking with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev about the possible resumption of nuclear talks. A Russian official says North Korea indicates it's ready to suspend nuclear testing and return to six-party talks without preconditions.
Gold prices dropped sharply on Wednesday after a strong report on new orders for durable goods. The drop comes after a gold rally boosted prices about 19 -- to about $1900 an ounce this week, extremely high.
And people on the East Coast of the US are stocking up on supplies and bracing for Hurricane Irene, which is churning in the Caribbean as a Category 3 storm. Our Jenny Harrison is at World Weather Center with details on that. Jen, what's the path at this point?
JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, that's the critical thing, isn't it, Becky? Yes, it is right now panning its way through the Bahamas. Let me just show you this, an amazing view. This taken just a few hours ago from NASA.
You can see what a vast storm it is and, as you can see, they're heading towards the southeast of the Bahamas. This is it on the move, as you can see. Some very low-lying and flat islands in the region.
We're getting some pictures, too, coming in now. You can see here, this is actually the Dominican Republic, this is Nagua and this is the damage that occurred after the storm had gone through there, 267 millimeters of rain in Puerto Rico, and you can see also, there, in the Dominican Republic getting on for 290 millimeters. Some very heavy rain coming in with this storm system.
It is in deed a Category 3 hurricane right now, winds sustained at just over 190 kilometers an hour, but it could yet strengthen. There's not a lot in the way of land masses to really slow this storm down. The warm waters, of course, giving it yet more energy.
Nearly all of the computer models showing pretty much the same direction. There's obviously some fluctuation with exactly where it might be along that East Coast. The red line, which is underneath, here, you can see, just about brushing Long Island. That is the National Hurricane Center.
But the forecast has moved suddenly eastwards over the last four days, so we could even hope, of course, that it pushes further off the East Coast, but the people are very right to be preparing for this. You can see that only once every 19 years or thereabouts we have a storm here.
Hurricane force winds expected through the Bahamas. Right now, the winds are not too bad. The winds are set to increase as it works its way eastwards. The rain will come down, as well. The accumulations will lead to widespread flooding.
We will keep you updated, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right. Best of luck if you are in that area. Jenny, thank you for that. All right.
I was going to say, let's get to Libya for you, where Moammar Gadhafi is a hunted man. The rebels are offering $1.5 million for the former leader, dead or alive. They say the war won't be over until Libya's former ruler is captured.
Now, the gunfire in Tripoli today has been mostly of celebration. You can hear CNN's Sara Sidner attempting to deliver her report earlier on. Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now holding AK-47s. They're blowing off rounds.
SIDNER: There's guys here with Kalashnikovs --
SIDNER: -- they're blowing off rounds. There are cars, now, if you'll --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, rebels say they control most of the capital, but they are still facing pockets of resistance. There is speculation that more intense fighting around the airport could be linked to Gadhafi's whereabouts.
We know, at least, that the rebels are getting extra help on the ground. Special forces from Britain, France, Jordan, and Qatar are stepping up operations in Tripoli and in other cities.
And a short time ago, news that four Italian journalists have actually been kidnapped near Zawiya. Italy's foreign ministry says it believes they were taken by pro-Gadhafi forces.
Well also in eastern Libya, rebels now say they control the oil city of Al Brega. However, they have been working to put out fires at three large fuel tanks. A refinery official says that pro-Gadhafi forces shelled the tanks before they retreated.
Fred Pleitgen has been at the refinery, and he joins us now from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Fred?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. And luckily, there's not actually very much damage to the refinery itself.
However, those four oil storage tanks have been in flames for the past six days, and the fire crews on the ground there are unable to put those fires out. They think those tanks will just burn out. Have a look at the scene.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Gadhafi's forces have retreated from the oil port, Brega, but they leave behind a path of destruction. At the oil refinery in Brega, several storage tanks with crude oil are ablaze, the efforts of the firefighters, futile so far.
"The forces of Gadhafi were here for about three months," the fire chief says, "and we were afraid that everything would be destroyed. But then, little by little, the revolutionaries advanced, and the Gadhafi forces were ousted."
But before retreating, Gadhafi's troops fired tank rounds into the facility, hitting four of the giant storage tanks.
PLEITGEN (on camera): The firefighters say they've been fighting this blaze for the past six days. They tell us they don't know how much longer they're going to have to be there before the flames are out, and they also say they don't know how extensive the damage is and how long it will take for the Brega oil refinery to go back online.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): With Moammar Gadhafi on the run, his troops' resolve appears to be crumbling on all fronts, including here in the east. Rebels gave us this video they filmed of their forces in the battle for Brega, firing rockets from a multiple launcher.
And a rebel commander says the opposition continues to push the pro- Gadhafi forces back. "Thank God we were able to defeat Gadhafi's forces here in Brega," he says. "Now we are in Ras Lanuf, and we will continue on until they are totally defeated."
The Transitional National Council says it's negotiating with Moammar Gadhafi's own tribe in his stronghold of Sirte to ensure their surrender without bloodshed.
As the end of the six-month civil war in Libya appears to be imminent, the opposition says too much blood has been shed, too much infrastructure destroyed, like the refinery in Brega, an important economic lifeline for a country in need of rebuilding.
PLEITGEN: And Becky, there is still fighting going on, actually, on the eastern front. It's between the town of Ras Lanuf and the town of Sirte, that we just mentioned, there, in that report. That, of course, is the hometown of Moammar Gadhafi.
However, the rebels say they believe that the fighting there could stop within the next few days. That also the timeframe for them to then move their operations from here in Benghazi to Tripoli to try and get the democratic transition here in this country going. Becky?
ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen in Benghazi with his report from Brega earlier on today. Fred, thank you for that.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, viewers, here on CNN. Still to come, a new era for Libya. As rebels tighten their grip on the capital, political discussions are underway. We're going to bring you the latest on the -- on those as the contact group looks forward. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: All right, so what is going on with Libya's new leadership? Well, the trans -- the National Transitional Council has held two major meetings today, this Wednesday.
In Doha, Qatar, the NTC has been seeking the release of $1.5 billion in frozen Libya assets for whats a stabilization purposes, and $2.5 billion in humanitarian aid.
And in Paris, the rebel group's executive chairman Mahmoud Jibril met with the French president to discuss setting up Libya's interim government.
And Nicolas Sarkozy proposed an international conference on Libya on September the 1st, the same date which, coincidentally, brought Moammar Gadhafi to power after a coup in 1969.
Well, as the NTC makes its move on the world stage, questions remain about the group's ability to lead and control Libya. Jill Dougherty now for you taking a look at the challenges that it faces just getting its politicians to work together.
JILL DOUGHTERTY, CNN WOLRD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a jubilant Saif Gadhafi suddenly appeared after the National Transitional Council claimed he'd been captured, it blew a hole in the credibility of the rebels' political leadership wing. But US officials are sticking by the NTC.
SUSAN RICE, US AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Clearly in a situation as fluid as this that's evolving rapidly, there's going to be confusion, there's going to be confusion, there's going to be misinformation.
DOUGHERTY: Since it was established at the beginning of March, setting up headquarters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the NTC has had to prove itself. A hodge-podge of former Gadhafi regime loyalists, reformers, expatriates, members of different tribes, and some jihadis.
About the only thing they had in common was a desire to get rid of Gadhafi. Infighting turned deadly when the rebels' top commander, General Abdel Fatah Younes, was assassinated.
DANIEL SERWER, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: My impression was I was meeting with very thoughtful, capable people.
DOUGHERTY: Professor Daniel Serwer has met with the NTC. He says nevertheless, they seem acutely aware of the need to establish the rule of law.
SERWER: From what we know, they want a democratic Libya, an Islamic state, but a state that is clearly a multi-party state, that is clearly a liberal state, but it's certainly an experiment for Libya, which has not had a state at all.
DOUGHERTY: The public face of the NTC is Mahmoud Jibril, a strategic planning expert who taught at the University of Pittsburgh and previously served in the regime.
For months, the Obama administration was skeptical, but the group pledged to work for a transition to democracy, and July 15th, the US recognized it as the legitimate governing authority in Libya. That freed up Gadhafi government assets frozen by the US and other countries.
Tuesday, the State Department said it's working with the UN to release $1 billion to $1.5 billion of a total of $30 billion frozen by the US.
VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESWOMAN, US STATE DEPARTMENT: The TNC has made strong commitments to the United States with regard to the use of the money, with regard to transparency, et cetera.
We would not have taken this step if we didn't have confidence that the money will be used -- will get to the people who need it and will be used appropriately.
DOUGHERTY (on camera): The State Department is taking this cautious approach even as it tries to speed up the process of getting money to the rebels. Events in Libya are moving with blinding speed, and the NTC could soon be governing the entire country.
Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.
ANDERSON: All right. Well, with that being the case, let's just check in and see which countries are now dealing with the NTC.
Formal recognition, these are the countries in red. Obviously, Libya here. Countries in red that you see here, more than 40 of them, formally recognize the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. That is the US, Canada, much of Europe, as you can see here, plus Japan and Australia.
There's also a scattering of Middle Eastern and Arab countries, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain. The most recent additions have been Iraq, Tunisia, and Egypt.
What about those who are not quite onboard yet? These are important, it's the blue one here, like Ireland and Switzerland. All right, they've given informal recognition. Others, though, such as Russia and China up to this point see the NTC more as a negotiating party.
Let's get back to our studio guest and specialist on this subject, friend of the show, the spokesman for the NTC based her in London, Guma el- Gamaty.
Two things I want to talk about, the economy but, first, the NTC, which has been an uneasy coalition, not least because it doesn't have any real representation of the western tribes.
It's going to be difficult, this balancing act, isn't it? They don't want to be seen as this eastern colonialists, as it were. They've got to get into Tripoli and fast, and they've got to become inclusive.
GUMA EL-GAMATY, UK COORDINATOR, NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL: Absolutely. Already, even before Tripoli has been liberated, the NTC based in Benghazi has taken onboard and included many people from the west.
But now, as the NTC moves into Tripoli proper, the capital of the country, a lot more high profile, high caliber, talented people from the western parts of Libya, from Misrata, from Tripoli, from Zawiya, from the western mountains, and also from sub-Sahara and others will be taken onboard and will be joining in various levels and in various positions.
And that will strengthen the NTC, it will give it that inclusivity, and it will give it much more human capital and human capacity.
ANDERSON: All right, let's talk about the economy, because you'll have the human capacity and human capital. What about getting that capital, the physical capital, back into the country?
There is something like $186 billion in frozen assets waiting to get back into Libya at the moment. The country, though, has no institutions. I mean, it's been left with nothing from this Gadhafi period, no civil society. But certainly no institutions.
How does the West trust an organization which is, as I say, has been divisive at times, with $186 billion in frozen assets when there isn't a single institution set up at the moment to run that money?
GAMATY: Well, first of all, the $186 billion worth of assets, some of them are liquid assets in cash, and a lot of them are not. They are sort of hard assets, buildings and other investments.
And what is now required immediately is to unfreeze a lot of that liquid assets. We need those -- we need money, and we need $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion very quickly to pay salaries, to pay for medicine, for food, for fuel to get the electricity going for everyone and things like that.
And the NTC, as it moves into Tripoli, is going to get more efficient and more transparent and more open. We are going to work with the international community, with international organizations, with the contact group and, obviously, with the EU, with the United Nations.
GAMATY: And these organizations can come in and can be observers and can monitor things and can ensure that there are mechanisms in place to ensure that there is transparency.
ANDERSON: Right, OK, stay with me, we're going to do more on this. The drive to rebuild Libya, it starts, of course, with money and the NTC needs it fast. How the international community is planning to unfreeze a significant amount of funds. More on that, up next right here on CONNECT THE WORLD. We are back in 60 seconds.
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WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Clear we're engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere to pave the way for the unfreezing of assets, the assets that have been frozen for five months but which ultimately belong to the Libyan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: British foreign minister William Hague talking there about unfreezing those much-needed assets to help Libya's opposition establish leadership and pay for vital medical and humanitarian supplies.
Let's take a look at what we're talking about here. Estimated anywhere from $100 billion to $150-odd billion, maybe as much as $190, even as much as, I say, $190 of Libyan government assets currently held overseas.
The US holding more than $30 billion of that money, the most of any country. Ten percent of that is cash, the rest non-liquid assets, including property. But right now the US plans to release about a billion dollars.
The UK holds $19 billion. They've given $149 million of that money to the NTC so far. $4 billion being held by the Dutch, $144 of that given to the World Health Organization, who plans to use the funds to distribute medical supplies to the Libyan people.
The Swiss government holds about $823 million and plans to hand over all of that money to the Libyan interim government, and it's estimated banks across Europe hold a total of 50 billion bucks of Libyan assets overall.
Right now in New York, the UN Security Council is discussing a resolution that would release billions of dollars of that money, frozen assets of course, to the Libyan interim government.
Let's bring in Richard Roth from UN headquarters. They say they're discussing it. The Libyan interim government needs it now. So when are they going to get it?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UN CORRESPONDENT: One would think that this might be a quick action, a quick procedure based upon events on the ground, the Security Council overturning what it did a couple of months ago when it froze a lot of the assets of the Gadhafi regime, and a lot of money.
Well, this time, according to diplomats, the South Africans are opposed, so the United States is -- and others -- are putting a little bit of pressure on.
The Security Council meeting just ended with no action. State Department spokesman in Washington described what the US and others are trying to accomplish here at the UN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NULAND: We are working hard in New York to try to get between a billion and $1.5 billion in Libyan frozen assets in US hands back into the hands of the Transitional National Council so that they can use them for urgent humanitarian needs of the Libyan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: Now, under the Security Council resolution, $500 million goes to the people of Libya through social services and education and other means. $500 million also for non-government associations who are helping the people, $500 million eventually going to the leadership, the National Transitional Council, and that's where the rub with the South Africans.
They say, their ambassador just telling reporters now, they have concerns about the money all going to the National Transitional Council.
There is a background, a history between South Africa and the Libyans. The African National Council rulers in South Africa prior and current South Africa, they have a history with Gadhafi, a lot of loyalty there, and they are also upset that the African Union was overruled, in effect, by the Security Council in allowing a NATO bombing campaign to take place.
Either way, South Africa, Becky, does not have a veto, and if the South Africans don't adjust their position and remove their objections, the US says they'll push for a vote on a resolution, which would send all of this money, $1.5 billion, to Libya and lift that hold. Becky, back to you.
ANDERSON: Yes, that's the very latest from the UN. Richard, thank you for that.
As Richard said, for years, Gadhafi had a relationship with African states. In fact, he pretty much bankrolled many of them. He was one of the biggest contributors to the African Union.
But with the dictator on the way out, how will Libya's relationship with Africa change? Well, Nkepile Mabuse takes a look at that for you now.
NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2008, he made the continent's traditional leaders crown him King of Kings. A year later, heads of state elected him chair of the African Union. Moammar Gadhafi's ultimate dream, a United States of Africa, with one currency, one army and, of course, one King of Kings.
Analysts say he greased enough palms with his country's oil wealth to elevate his status on the continent. But there was always the dark side.
ADEKEYE ADEBAJO, AFRICA ANALYST: Supporting rebel groups in Liberia, in Sierra Leone, in Mali. And I think secretly, even though leaders have taken his money in Africa, I think a lot of people will be quietly relieved that he's gone.
MABUSE: From warlords to icons of peace, Gadhafi wanted them all to adore him.
MABUSE (on camera): The paradox of Moammar Gadhafi can perhaps best be illustrated by his relationship with Nelson Mandela, a saintly figure that refused to turn his back on Gadhafi because of his support of the anti-Apartheid struggle here in South Africa, affectionately calling him the Brother Leader.
MABUSE (voice-over): More recently, the Brother Leader had gained more favor by investing heavily in Africa. From hotels to diamonds, Libya has investments in more than 20 countries on the continent.
Last year, Gadhafi pledged to pump $97 billion into Africa to, quote, "free it from Western influence." His investments, pledges, and massive contributions to the AU now hang in the balance.
ADEBAJO: This policy has always been very unpopular among ordinary Libyans. The fact that they felt that he should be spending money more at home rather than using the oil wealth abroad. So, I think you're going to see a shift and more of a focus on domestic issues.
MABUSE: In the end, the peasant that so wanted to be king ended up an emperor with no clothes.
Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Johannesburg.
ANDERSON: Well, the drive to rebuild Libya and renew its relations with its neighbors in the wider world now underway, of course. What we know for sure is that it will take a lot of money and a lot of international support.
Guma el-Gamaty, UK coordinator for the NTC is with me still in the studio. And the NTC, no doubt, mindful of the chaos that engulfed Baghdad after Saddam Hussein was toppled.
I know the stabilization group has been working for months on a transition plan, but executing that will demand organizational skills that the interim government and the rebels have yet to demonstrate. Tell me that we can be confident this money is going into the hands of people who can create institutions that will make it work for the Libyan people.
GAMATY: Absolutely, Becky. We have the plan in place, we have the vision, we have detailed plans in place. We have learned from other experiences. You mentioned Iraq, there. Bitter experiences from there that have been learned from.
And we are not going to sack everybody. We are going to be as inclusive as possible. We are already calling on institutions like the police force, the security forces, the various guards, the heads of important services, like the water, the energy, the hospital managers, the key civil servants, the top -- the top civil servants in the country to report back to job.
There are only very few who will be excluded, those who have blood on their hands, who have been implicated in human rights violations, and those who are suspected of embezzling money and corruption.
Everybody else would be asked and welcome to come back to their jobs and be part of the new Libya. And we need to draw a line, we need to engage in a national reconciliation and then move on with the new Libya.
ANDERSON: All right. Before we close out this show, we are, as you talk, looking at pictures of what appears to be considerable violence, Guma, in the eastern part of Tripoli. Things aren't stable by any stretch of the imagination, are they?
GAMATY: No, no. I mean, as I said, we still have pockets and remnants in Tripoli, but our people are dealing with them as we speak. Those pictures just are another indication that our people are dealing with those pockets.
Give it -- they are getting better every day, they are getting on top of the situation every day. Those pockets and remnants are getting less and less and, hopefully, in a few days, they will be clear and Tripoli will be a much safer and quieter place.
ANDERSON: Let's hope so. Guma el-Gamaty, we thank you very much, indeed --
GAMATY: Thank you.
ANDERSON: -- for joining us as a regular guest on this show.
I'm Becky Anderson, thank you for watching. Your world is connected.
We're going to leave you now with scenes of celebration and relief this Wednesday after journalists from CNN and other news organizations were released from a hotel in Tripoli where they had been held against their will for five days. They are all now safe.
Thanks for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break.