Leaders gather for Libya summit

A key summit on Libya, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK PM David Cameron, is to begin in Paris.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend, as will China and Russia, which has now recognised the National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya’s legitimate government.

The NTC will call for help on security, rebuilding and preparing for democracy.

But it has still not captured Col Muammar Gaddafi, whose son Saif al-Islam again vowed a fight to the death.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Benghazi, says although the Paris meeting will be short and symbolic, it will give the governments who have supported the NTC another chance to show it has a place on the world stage.

He says the meeting will hone plans for the transition to democracy, for reconstruction and issues such as enhancing the training of police.

The NTC, our correspondent says, will press for a further unfreezing of assets but will also stress that it does not want any lessening of Nato support as it tries to quell the remaining loyalist pockets.

About 60 countries are to attend the “Friends of Libya” forum in Paris on Thursday afternoon, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The meeting comes on the 42nd anniversary of Col Gaddafi’s emergence as the leader of the coup that overthrew King Idris.

It will hear a report from the NTC on security, governance, reconstruction and the economy.

The most urgent need is the restoration of services such as fuel, electricity and water in key cities, along with food supplies and the payment of workers.

The US has said the credibility of the NTC will initially rest on addressing such issues.

On Wednesday, £140m in Libyan banknotes (280m Libyan dinars) was flown by the British air force to the country, the first tranche of £950m that will be handed to Libya’s Central Bank.

And on Thursday, France announced it had now received approval to release 1.5bn euros ($2.16bn) of Libyan assets to the NTC.

The NTC received a further diplomatic boost on Thursday when Russia formally recognised its authority.

“Our country has established and continued diplomatic relations with Libya since September 4, 1955 without a break, no matter what government holds power in Tripoli,” the foreign ministry said.

China, which has criticised the extent of the Nato-led air campaign in Libya and has been an enormous investor in the country, said it would send a vice-minister to the Paris meeting.

Algeria, which drew strong criticism from the NTC for giving sanctuary to four key members of the Gaddafi family this week, on Thursday said it was ready to recognise the NTC once a government had been formed and that it had never considered taking in Col Gaddafi.

Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told Europe 1 radio: “The hypothesis that Mr Gaddafi could come knocking on our door was never considered.”

‘Attack the rats’

The NTC still faces a loyalist threat in a number of areas, including in Bani Walid south-east of Tripoli, Sabha in the south, and the Gaddafi home town of Sirte.

There have been conflicting messages from the Gaddafi family about its intentions.

Saif al-Islam said his father was fine and pledged victory for loyalist forces.

In an audio message on Syria-based al-Rai television he said he was speaking from Tripoli’s outskirts.

“The resistance continues and victory is near,” he said. “We are going to die in our land. No-one is going to surrender.

“Attack the rats,” he said, referring to the anti-Gaddafi forces.

Saif also said that claims by another son, Saadi, that he had the family’s authority to negotiate with the NTC to end the fighting were false and had been coerced.

Saadi’s message was reported by al-Arabiya TV. He said he had got in touch with the NTC commander in Tripoli.

“If my surrender stops the spilling of blood, I am ready to give myself up tonight,” he said.

“We don’t mind. We are all Libyans,” he said. “We have no problem to give them (the NTC) power.”

The NTC has made it clear it is not interested in negotiating and Gaddafi loyalists have been issued an ultimatum to surrender before Saturday or face a full military assault.

A ceasefire was called on Wednesday to observe the Muslim end-of-Ramadan holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But anti-Gaddafi commanders say they are moving to encircle Sirte and other areas still under the control of Gaddafi loyalists.