Tripoli: Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have arrived in Tripoli in a trip that is the first by foreign leaders since rebels ousted Muammar Gaddafi, sources said.
France and Britain spearheaded the NATO air war against Gaddafi’s forces that helped the rebels slowly fight their way towards Tripoli and install the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the new government there.
Cameron and Sarkozy are accompanied by 160 security officers and Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher who championed Libya`s revolution and helped convince Sarkozy to back the rebels, several sources said in Paris.
The trios were expected to meet with NTC leaders in Tripoli, while press reports said they may also travel to Benghazi, the eastern city where the uprising kicked off in February.
Sarkozy said during a major international conference on Libya in early September that he would travel to Tripoli once the NTC was installed there.
Jeffrey Feltman, US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, visited Tripoli on Wednesday, becoming the highest ranking US official to visit the Libyan capital since its capture from Gaddafi`s forces on August 23.
Gaddafi, wanted for alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, remains in hiding but many of his inner circle and a son have fled to neighbouring Niger.
Gaddafi appealed on Wednesday for the international community to help his hometown of Sirte, encircled by forces loyal to Libya`s new government, in an audio message aired on a Syria-based television channel.
Fighters loyal to the NTC said pro- Gaddafi forces had formed a crescent-shaped chain of tanks around Sirte to prevent civilians from fleeing and to parry any assault on the city.
They said Gaddafi’s propaganda was aimed at persuading Sirte`s population to believe that the forces of the new leadership were all Islamists and terrorists.
NATO stresses that Gaddafi is not a target in the daily bombing campaign it has kept up against his remaining forces, which still control a swathe of the coast around Sirte as well as a string of Saharan oases.
Diplomats in New York said Wednesday that Britain hopes that a vote will be held within three days on a United Nations Security Council resolution it has drafted setting up a UN mission in Libya.