March 5, 2011 / 6:55 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Rebels in east Libya set up crisis committee

* Council head renews call for foreign air strikes

* Rebel council says it is not an interim government

* Rebels hold east, Gaddafi still holds Tripoli

(Adds details, quotes)

By Tom Pfeiffer

BENGHAZI, Libya, March 5 (Reuters) - The National Libyan Council based in the rebel-held east named a three-member crisis committee on Saturday to cover military and foreign affairs in a bid to streamline decision-making.

The council has said it will act as the face of the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule but says it is not an interim government. It also wants to shift its base from the eastern city of Benghazi to Tripoli, although the capital remains firmly under Gaddafi’s control.

The council repeated its call for foreign air strikes to help dislodge the man who has been in power for 41 years and has used warplanes and helicopters against rebel forces. Rebels accuse him of hiring African mercenaries for help.

Political science professor Fathi Baja, a Benghazi-based member of the rebel February 17th Coalition, said of the committee:

“This will encourage people because they have chosen some very strong names. Also, they reflect a balance as they are from different places and different tribes.”

The council named Omar Hariri, one of the officers who took part in Gaddafi’s 1969 coup but was later jailed, as head of the military. Ali Essawi, a former ambassador to India who quit last month, was put in charge of foreign affairs.

Mahmoud Jebril, who had been involved in a project called “Libyan Vision” with other intellectuals before the revolt to establish a democratic state, will head the crisis committee. The council said the group aimed to streamline decision making.

Other new members include dissident Ahmed Zoubeir who, under Gaddafi, spent longer than the 28 years South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was held in prison, as well as Selwa Adrilli, Fathi Terbil and Fathi Baja.

Other ministers are to be announced at later dates.

Speaking at a news conference, the head of the national council, ex-Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said the body did not want foreign troops on Libyan soil and had sufficient forces to liberate the country.

“There is a feeling on the street that if Gaddafi can employ foreigners to fight for him then why cannot we?,” he said.

“Our people have the numbers and the determination to liberate all of Libya, but we will ask for air strikes to help us do this in the shortest possible time.”

He also said the young, mostly civilian fighters in the rebel force would be replaced by a more professional fighting force. He did not say when.

Writing by Sherine El Madany in Cairo; Editing by Edmund Blair and Michael Roddy

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