Libyan rebels refuse to extradite man behind Lockerbie bombing
National Transitional Council says Abdel Basset al-Megrahi 'has been judged and will not be judged again'; rebels close in on Gadhafi's home town.
Libya will not extradite Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing, a minister in Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) said on Sunday.
"We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West," Mohammed al-Alagi, the NTC justice minister, told reporters in Tripoli.
"Al-Megrahi has already been judged once and he will not be judged again ... We do not hand over Libyan citizens, (Muammar) Gadhafi does."
Meanwhile, Libyan forces closed in on Gadhafi's home town on Sunday, saying they would seize it by force if negotiations for its surrender failed.
Libya's new rulers, trying to establish control over all the country, set their sights on the coastal city of Sirte --Gadhafi's birthplace - and two other towns controlled by his supporters, Sabha in the southwest and Jufrah in the southeast.
One commander said his forces were within 100 km of Sirte from the east and others were advancing from the west. "We will continue negotiations as long as necessary. However, the liberation of these cities will take place sooner or later," said the military spokesman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in the eastern city of Benghazi. "In our opinion this is a matter of days," Colonel Ahmed Bani said.
In Tripoli, the stench of rotting bodies and burning garbage still hung over the city, overrun by anti-Gadhafi forces last week. Many corpses have turned up, some of slain Gadhafi soldiers, others the victims of killings in cold blood.
A Libyan official said 75 bodies had been found at the Abu Salim hospital, which was caught up in heavy fighting, and another 35 corpses were found at the Yurmuk hospital.
The NTC and the Western powers that backed rebel forces with a five-month bombing campaign are acutely aware of the need to prevent Libya collapsing into the kind of chaos that plagued Iraq for years after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The NTC, whose leaders plan to move to Tripoli from Benghazi this week, is trying to impose security, restore basic services and revive the oil- and gas-based economy.
In good omens for economic recovery, officials announced that a vital gas export pipeline to Europe had been repaired and that Libya's biggest refinery had survived the war intact.
In the far west, Tunisian authorities reopened the main border crossing into Libya, restoring a key supply route for Tripoli, after Gadhafi forces were driven out on Friday.
That should help relieve a looming humanitarian crisis in the city, where food, drinking water and medicines are scarce.
Trucks loaded with food and other goods were already moving across the Ras Jdir crossing towards Tripoli, about two hours' drive away. A UN official said aid would
An earlier message said former Gadhafi loyalists should be treated with dignity and respect. Another said any pro-Gadhafi fighters still carrying weapons should be treated as outlaws.
Usama el-Abed, deputy chairman of the Tripoli council, said water shortages were affecting 70 percent of the city's two million people. He told reporters hospitals were all working except for the one where the killings occurred in Abu Salim.
Shammam said public sector workers would not lose their jobs. Efforts to pay the salaries of those in and around Tripoli were under way. "Money is still tight, but things will be better in the next few days," he told a news conference in Tripoli.
The NTC hopes to gain access soon to hundreds of millions of dollars of assets frozen abroad. It also needs to get oil and gas revenue, normally 95 percent of exports, flowing again.
Bani, the military spokesman, said the gas pipeline to Europe had been repaired. "The gas pipeline is back and running, supplying the pump stations and the Mellitah (gas processing) refinery. Gas will start flowing to Europe," he declared, without saying when such shipments would resume.
The pipeline, which supplied about 10 percent of Italy's gas imports in 2010, was shut down in February shortly after the revolt against Gadhafi began.
Libya's largest oil refinery at Ras Lanuf on the Mediterranean coast is intact despite fighting that had raged nearby and staff are preparing to restart operations at the 220,000 barrel per day plant, the general manager told Reuters.
Ras Lanuf was held by Gadhafi forces until a few days ago and the front line is only about 25 km to the west.