Sarkozy, Cameron in Libya
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Tripoli on Thursday to meet with Libya’s new interim leaders.
The leaders will meet with National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril, chairman and head of international affairs of the NTC.
It was the first visit by the two leaders to Tripoli since the city fell, and they arrived under heavy security.
The two leaders were key players in the NATO bombing campaign that aided the NTC in toppling Gadhafi.
Their visit came as families fled Bani Walid, one of Gadhafi’s last strongholds, ahead of a Thursday night deadline to leave the besieged city.
Libya’s interim leaders gave residents in Bani Walid a 48-hour notice to leave as it dispatched hundreds of fighters to reinforce troops struggling to take the loyalist stronghold.
Fighters were regrouping on the outskirts of Bani Walid — one of three cities firmly in the hands of Gadhafi loyalists — after encountering stiff resistance during a weekend assault. The fighting began after weeks of negotiations to surrender the city broke down.
Residents were given the ultimatum late Tuesday, Abdulrahman Busin, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council, told CNN. The deadline warns civilians to leave the city before a planned offensive by NTC forces.
Forces also have been sent to reinforce troops outside Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and Sabha, another stronghold in the western part of the country.
At a checkpoint about nine miles outside Bani Walid, families fleeing the city Wednesday complained about a shortage of water and food. They said they no longer felt safe in the city, which has been under siege by NTC forces for weeks.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to visit Tripoli this week.
Erdogan’s anticipated visit follows one a day earlier by Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.
“I am encouraged by these individuals and these organizations’ efforts,” Feltman said following meetings with Jalil and Jibril.
In New York, a draft Security Council resolution circulated Wednesday that would establish a United Nations Support Mission in Libya under the leadership of a special representative of the secretary-general for an initial period of three months.
According to the draft, the mission’s mandate would be to help Libya extend state authority, protect human rights, support justice and take steps needed to get the nation back on its feet economically. A vote on the proposal is expected within a few days.