Dar es Salaam — Tanzania has declared it does not recognise the administration of Libya's rebel-led National Transitional Council (NTC) even as its fighters continue to tighten the noose around Muammar Gaddafi's forces in his birth town of Sirte.
This stand was announced in Dar es Salaam yesterday by the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe.
But, said Mr Membe, Tanzania would only recognise the group if it takes over the government and establishes the necessary organs that respect the division of power between the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
Apart from that, the minister said, there should be elections through which the people of Libya would choose the leaders they want.
With this stand, Tanzania becomes one of the 41 African Union member states that have declined to recognise the interim Libyan government.
Some 11 African countries have so far recognised the NTC, namely, Botswana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tunisia, Senegal, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Benin, Kenya and Djibouti.
Over the weekend, the Libyan interim administration released names of members of its governing council for the first time and promised to increase its roster rapidly to provide representation to the newly liberated parts of the country.
But, Mr Membe said, it was not yet clear whether the rebel group has taken over the country.
"The issue of Libya is like a bunch of spiralling worms in a can, whose heads and tails you cannot see and whose number or sizes you can't determine," he said.
He said what Tanzania and the African Union (AU) see as an important step now was the restoration of peace in order to safeguard lives of innocent people in the country engulfed in sporadic fighting.
"Our concern is not whether Gaddafi remains in power or not. We're concerned about the future of the country and prosperity of its people," he argued.
Reports from Libya yesterday indicated that the rebels closed in on Colonel Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte from both east and west.
A senior military commander said, as the insurgents also scrambled to get Tripoli back on its feet.
According to AFP, rebel forces moved 30km closer to Sirte from the west and captured the town of Bin Jawad which is 100km to the east, the rebel commander in Misrata, Mohammed al-Fortiya, told the news agency.
"We took Bin Jawad today (Sunday) on the eastern front, and our fighters from Misrata are 30km from Sirte in the west," Mr Fortiya said.
Rebels pushing west from the oil hub of Ras Lanuf had been stuck for four days outside Bin Jawad, a key town on the road hugging the shores of the Gulf of Sirte, with Gaddafi's forces putting up a defiant resistance.
Sirte is the elusive Gaddafi's last bastion after rebels smashed his forces in Tripoli and seized his Bab al-Aziziya headquarters, and now the insurgents are focusing on capturing the embattled Libyan leader.
Although his whereabouts remain a mystery, there is widespread speculation that he is holed up in Sirte, 360km east of Tripoli, among tribal supporters there.
Mr Fortiya said talks were under way with tribal leaders in Sirte for its surrender, adding that only tribal leaders were involved, and that to his knowledge no direct contact had been made with Col. Gaddafi himself.
"We are negotiating with the tribes for Sirte's peaceful surrender," he said.
In the capital, where life is slowly returning to normal after six months of bloody rebellion to end Col. Gaddafi's 42-year rule, sporadic gunfire was heard overnight.
As rebels endeavoured to get Tripoli on its feet and appealed for funds, the Arab League early yesterday urged the UN Security Council to unlock billions of dollars in Libyan assets and property.
Meanwhile, Mr Membe said Tannzania was ready to sell over 11,000 tonnes of its cereals to the World Food Programme (WFP) which is striving to get food for hunger-stricken Somalia.
The United Nations, through WFP, has allocated over $2 million to supply food to the Horn of Africa.
Besides that, Tanzania has already finalised plans to ferry within this week, 300 tonnes of maize as help to Somalia, Mr Membe noted.
The food aid was pledged by President Jakaya Kikwete when Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed visited the country recently.
Reports show that in Somalia, about six in every 10,000 die daily from hunger, which has also displaced an estimated 800,000 people, some of whom have moved to neighbouring countries as refugees.
But, Mr Membe clarified, Tanzania was not ready to receive refugees from Somalia, given that currently, the country is accommodating an exceedingly large number of displaced people.
"We will do all that we can to assist the Somalis in their country or in areas where they might be staying as refugees," he said.