Libyan anti-government protest leaders say they have formed a “national council” in eastern cities seized from Moammar Gadhafi, following days of fighting with forces loyal to the Libyan leader.
Council spokesman Hafiz Ghoga said Sunday that the council serves as the face of the revolution but is not an interim government.
Meanwhile, in western Libya, anti-government protesters have taken control of Zawiya, some 50 kilometers from the capital, Tripoli. The protesters are reported to be preparing to repel an expected offensive by pro-Gadhafi forces surrounding the area.
Western journalists who reached Zawiya said hundreds of people gathered in the city center Sunday, chanting anti-Gadhafi slogans. The journalists reported extensive damage from recent fighting, with many buildings burned and pockmarked by bullets, and charred skeletons of cars left in the streets.
Mr. Gadhafi remains in control of Tripoli, but has seen opposition forces take control of other parts of western Libya and the entire east of the country since they started an uprising against his 42-year rule earlier this month.
On Saturday, Mr. Gadhafi’s former justice minister declared the formation of a transitional government based in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising began. Mustafa Abdel Jalil made the announcement in an interview with Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television.
Abdel Jalil said the transitional government includes military and civilian figures and will lead for “no more than three months” to prepare for “fair elections” enabling the Libyan people to choose their leader. He quit as Mr. Gadhafi’s justice minister last week. It is not clear how much support Abdel Jalil’s caretaker government has in opposition-held communities.
Libya’s Ambassador to the United States Ali Aujali said Saturday he supports the caretaker government established by Abdel Jalil.