The Nation (Nairobi)

Libya: Tanzania Backs AU Stance On Refusing to Back Rebels

Dar es Salaam — Tanzania has backed the Africa Union (AU) in not recognising the Libya National Transitional Council (NTC) rebels even as they continue to tighten the noose around embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi in his birth town of Sirte.

The Tanzania stand was announced in Dar es Salaam on Sunday by the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe.

But, Mr Membe said Tanzania would recognise the group if it is takes over the government and establishes all the governing organs which respect the division of power between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.

Apart from that, Mr Membe said, there should be election through which people of Libya would have opportunity of choose the leaders they want.

With that decision, Tanzania becomes among 41 countries in Africa that refused to recognise the Interim Government in Libya.

So far, about 11 African countries have recognised the rebels led NTC in Libya. These include Botswana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tunisia, Senegal, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Benin, Kenya and Djibouti.

Over the weekend The Interim Government released names of members of its governing council for the first time and promised to increase its roster rapidly to provide representation to newly liberated parts of the country.

But, Mr Membe said it was not clear whether the rebel group has taken over the country.

"The issue of Libya is like a bunch of spiralling worms in can that you cannot see their heads and tails as well as know their number and size," he said.

He said what Tanzania and African Union (AU) see as important step now was restoration of peace in order to rescue lives of innocent people in the country engulfed in sporadic fighting.

"Our concern is not whether (Muammar) Gaddafi remains in power or not. We are concerned about the future of the country and prosperity of its people," he argued.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 prisoners have been freed from Muammar Gaddafi's jails since the fall of Tripoli but almost 50,000 others are still missing, the Libyan rebels' military spokesman said on Sunday, adds AFP.

"The number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000," Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi.

"Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now ... so where are the others?" he asked.

In another development, a top Libyan rebel commander said today insurgent forces were 30 kilometres west of Gaddafi's hometown bastion of Sirte and 100 kilometres away in the east after seizing Bin Jawad.

A spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council, Mahmud Shammam, meanwhile, warned that negotiations for a peaceful handover of Sirte would not be open-ended.

"The negotiations will not go on for ever," he said, referring to talks between the rebels and local tribal heads for a surrender to avoid bloodshed. "The talks are still going on... We would like to unify Libya very quickly."

Mohammed al-Fortiya, the rebel commander in Misrata, told AFP: "We took Bin Jawad today (Sunday)" on the eastern front, and "the thwar (rebel fighters) from Misrata are 30 kilometres from Sirte" in the west.

No fighting was reported on Sunday, he said, to await the outcome of the talks.

"We are negotiating with the tribes for Sirte's peaceful surrender," he said, adding that only tribal leaders were involved and that to his knowledge no direct contact had been established with Moamer Gaddafi's regime.

Meanwhile, Tripoli's sole psychiatric hospital, already unable to cope under Gaddafi struggled today with a flood of new cases brought on by the revolution's battles, as well as a lack of drugs, staff and space.

"The situation has been bad for many years, but since two months it has become very bad," a doctor at the hospital told AFP, asking not to be named.

"We urgently need drugs, especially sedatives," a doctor said.

The sprawling decrepit complex looks more like a military barracks than a hospital and has been unchanged for 40 years.

Patients are held behind creaking metal-barred doors, asking to light cigarettes but forbidden from holding matches.

The hospital covers all of western Libya: a population of around three million people spread out over millions of square miles (kilometres).

"We've seen relapses, people who have been in remission for 10 years have come back" because of the war, said the doctor.

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