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Libyan Forces Advance on Strongholds as Turkish Leader Arrives

Opponents of Muammar Qaddafi advanced on two of his loyalists’ strongholds as the Turkish premier arrived in Tripoli to meet Libya’s new rulers.

The Misrata Military Council’s forces pushed into the city of Sirte, Qaddafi’s birthplace on the Mediterranean coast, according to a statement from the group today. Anti-Qaddafi fighters also entered the mountain town of Bani Walid, Al Jazeera said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was greeted in Tripoli by Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council. Erdogan said Turkey would aid Libya militarily and politically, and offered help in the construction a parliament, telling a crowd, “Libya belongs to Libyans.”

Erdogan’s trip follows a visit to Libya yesterday by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first foreign leaders to visit Tripoli since helping the rebel forces of the NTC oust Qaddafi last month. U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Abdel Jalil at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 20.

Obama plans to congratulate Jalil on the defeat of Qaddafi’s forces and discuss transition plans, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters today.

The Misrata Military Council said yesterday that its fighters took control of the entrances to Sirte, and began searching for officials loyal to Qaddafi. They deployed 900 armed pickup trucks the largest fleet assembled by the forces for a single operation again Qaddafi’s supporters.

Seeking Backup

The Misratan forces withdrew early today to avoid being hit by rockets from positions south of the city after delivering food and water to trapped civilians. They also sent ammunition to forces in Benghazi and asked for backup, according to the statement today. The Misrata Military Council operates independently from the NTC, while units from Benghazi don’t.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization said today that its warplanes struck multiple rocket launchers, missile systems, armored vehicles and a military storage facility in Sirte yesterday in attacks coinciding with the start of the anti-Qaddafi forces’ ground offensive.

Cameron and Sarkozy said they would push at the United Nations Security Council today for the adoption of a resolution releasing more Libyan assets that were frozen under sanctions against Qaddafi.

‘Not Finished’

“This is not finished, this is not done, this is not over; there are still parts of Libya under Qaddafi’s control,” Cameron told a joint news conference in Tripoli yesterday. “We will help you to find Qaddafi and bring him to justice.”

Britain is releasing 600 million pounds ($950 million) of Libyan assets, Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, told reporters in London.

Asked whether their intervention had been influenced by a desire to get at Libya’s oil wealth, Sarkozy said, “There were no kickbacks, no hidden agreements to access Libya’s resources. We did what we thought was fair.”

The North African country will resume crude exports within three or four days, the nation’s representative to a meeting of Arab central bank governors in Doha said yesterday. Output will be about 700,000 barrels a day by the end of this year and an estimated 1.6 million barrels a day by the end of 2012, Abdulla Saudi told reporters in the Qatari capital.

The U.K. has put forward a draft resolution to the UN Security Council to end an asset freeze on the Libyan National Oil Corp. and Zueitina Oil Co., according to a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of not being identified. The 15-member body may vote on the measure today.

Use of Assets

The resolution also would authorize the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio to use their assets for specified purposes. Those include purchases of humanitarian aid; fuel, electricity and water for civilian use; and the strengthening of Libya’s government and economy.

Eighteen of 19 Libyan ports are now “operational,” according to a notice to the UN’s shipping agency from the NTC published on the website of Inchcape Shipping Services yesterday.

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