February 27, 2011 / 1:49 PM / in 7 years

Benghazi groups discusses Libya interim authority

* Interim body to help those fighting Gaddafi in Tripoli

* Gaddafi controls increasingly small portion of Libya

* Benghazi, whole of east Libya out of Gaddafi hands

By Mohammed Abbas

BENGHAZI, Libya, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Libyans in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi were on Sunday discussing plans for a temporary authority that would help support those challenging Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in his stronghold of Tripoli.

Libya has tipped into a political vacuum since an uprising against Gaddafi’s rule erupted on Feb. 17. In places such as Benghazi that have ejected Gaddafi’s loyalists, citizens have set up committees to act as a local authority and run services.

Gaddafi and his loyalists still control Tripoli, but their grip beyond the capital has been shrinking and all of eastern Libya and some other areas closer to Tripoli are in rebel hands.

Members of the group running Benghazi said Sunday’s meeting on setting up an interim authority was partly aimed at ensuring support for those still battling against Gaddafi in Tripoli.

“We want to see if we can coordinate between municipal councils from east and west to form an organising body,” said Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer involved in the Benghazi coalition.

“One of the aims of the body is to help the resistance in Tripoli through military and other means,” she said.

Benghazi is now run by a group called the February 17th Coalition, which has based itself in the Benghazi court house.

“They are discussing the formation of a national interim council, but it’s not a government, the government will remain in Tripoli,” said Saleh Hadi, who works in coalition’s media office, referring to the talks in the Mediterranean port city. The online edition of the Libya’s Quryna newspaper said on Saturday former Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil had led the formation of an interim government based in Benghazi.

Libya’s envoy to the United States, Ali Aujlali, told Reuters he supported Ajleil’s caretaker government.

It was not clear if those seeking to set up an authority in Benghazi were working in concert with Ajleil’s plans.

One official working with the coalition, who asked not to be named, said “the sole issuse” of Sunday’s gathering setting up a national organising body “is to organise free Libya”.

The official added: “The temporary location of any new organising body will be Benghazi. Will it be a government, a council? We will wait and see. Lawyers and professionals trusted by the people are in the meeting.” (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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