A rebel fighter sits on the street in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, (AP).
Libyans delighted at Muammar Gaddafi's downfall celebrated the end of Ramadan feast on Wednesday, even though the ousted leader remains on the run and forces loyal to him are defying an ultimatum set by Libya's interim council.
In the capital's newly renamed Martyrs' Square, hundreds of people gathered for morning prayers to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month.
"It is the most beautiful prayers. We are filled with joy, Gaddafi made us hate our lives ... We come here to express our joy at the end of 42 years of repression and deprivation," said Hatem Gureish, 31, a merchant from Tripoli.
"This is the most beautiful Eid and most beautiful day in 42 years," he said.
Council leaders, trying to heal scars left by Gaddafi's 42-year rule, may want United Nations help in setting up a new police force, but see no role for international peacekeepers or observers, a U.N. official said.
"They are very seriously interested in assistance with policing to get the public security situation under control and gradually develop a democratically accountable public security force," Ian Martin, special U.N. envoy for post-conflict planning in Libya, said at the United Nations in New York.
"We don't now expect military observers to be requested," he said. "It's very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the U.N. or others."
Libyans who revolted against Gaddafi in February needed NATO air power to help them win, but, given their country's unhappy colonial history, they remain wary of foreign meddling.
The National Transitional Council (NTC), keen to assert its grip and relieve hardship after six months of war, won a $1.55 billion cash injection when the U.N. Sanctions Committee released banknotes in Britain in frozen Gaddafi accounts. The new leaders said Libya may start pumping oil again in days.
Security was tight at the Tripoli square where Gaddafi had been due to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the coup he led on 1 September. Sniffer dogs checked worshippers and gunmen stood on rooftops to guard against an attack by Gaddafi loyalists.
"There may be some pockets of Gaddafi forces but generally the capital is secure," interim interior minister Ahmad Darat told Reuters. "We have created a security team to manage the crisis and preserve security in the capital."
Fatima Mustafa, 28, a pregnant woman wearing a black chador, said: "This is a day of freedom, a day I cannot describe to you. It's as if I own the world. I'm glad I haven't given birth yet so my daughter can be born into a free Libya."
Yet, reporters touring Tripoli still saw chaotic scenes, including desperate motorists stealing fuel from a gas station.
In the capital's Souk al Jumma neighborhood, about 200 people pounded on the doors of a bank, demanding that it open. Civil servants said they were told they would receive a 250-dinar (about $200) advance on their salaries for the three-day feast holiday.
NTC fighters pushing from east and west towards Gaddafi's home town of Sirte paused, observing an effective truce until a surrender deadline set by their leaders expires on Saturday.
In an overnight phone call to AP headquarters in New York, Gaddafi's chief spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim said the rebels' ultimatum would be rejected.
"No dignified honorable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs," he said. Ibrahim reiterated Gaddafi's offer to send his son al-Saadi to negotiate with rebels and form a transitional government.
NATO warplanes have been bombing Gaddafi forces near the coastal city, and the alliance has assured its Libyan allies that it will see the mission through. The council says the war will end only when Gaddafi is captured or killed.
In the Sahara desert far south of Sirte, the town of Sabha is among those where the NTC's writ does not run.
It was across the desert that Gaddafi's wife and three of his children fled into Algeria, arriving just in time for his daughter Aisha to give birth at the oasis of Djanet on Tuesday, according to Algerian officials.
Algiers, wary of any threat that Arab uprisings might pose to its own veteran rulers and fearful that a post-Gaddafi Libya might be helpful to its Islamist enemies, is not among the nearly 50 countries to recognise the NTC's legitimacy.
It has demanded that Algeria return them, calling the act of giving them asylum an “enemy act.”
But, according to an Algerian newspaper, Algeria has decided not to give asylum to Gaddafi himself and would hand him over, if he arrived, to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which has indicted him, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity.
Algerian news reports also said Aisha's pregnancy was one reason for Algeria's controversial decision to take the fleeing family in. Benmehidi said Algeria allowed Gaddafi's family to enter for "humanitarian considerations."
The whereabouts of all three are unknown, though Libyan fighters said intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi had been killed at the weekend along with Gaddafi's son Khamis, a military commander. Both men had been reported dead before.
NTC leaders have told their forces to treat prisoners with respect -- in contrast with the reported killing and torture of detainees by Gaddafi's forces -- but Amnesty International said its staff had seen anti-Gaddafi fighters threaten and detain wounded opponents, notably black Libyans and foreigners.
"The council must do more to ensure that their fighters do not abuse detainees, especially the most vulnerable ones such as black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans," Amnesty's Claudio Cordone said in a statement after one incident in Tripoli.
"Many risk reprisals as a result of allegations that Gaddafi forces used 'African mercenaries' to commit widespread violations during the conflict," the lobby group added.
Interim interior minister Darat said he hoped to build up new security forces to absorb some of the young fighters who joined the battle against Gaddafi. "Our goal is to implement justice for everybody, including Gaddafi loyalists," he said.
One important element in efforts to establish the council's rule as it prepares for a new constitution to be followed by elections will be a return of export profits from oil and gas.
Oil production could restart within weeks and reach full pre-war output within 15 months, the newly appointed chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Tuesday.
"Starting up production will be within weeks, not months. After we start it will take less than 15 months," Nouri Berouin, chairman of the NOC, told Reuters.