Gaddafi son in Niger 'custody'
Tripoli – Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi was under guard in the Niger capital on Wednesday after fleeing Libya over the weekend but Nato acknowledged it had no idea where his fugitive father is holed up.
The alliance stressed that the toppled strongman was not a target in the daily bombing campaign it has kept up against his remaining forces as the World Bank formally recognised Libya's new leaders and pledged to play a major role in their post-war reconstruction efforts.
Saadi Kadhafi, 38, the third of Gaddafi’s seven sons, is among 32 officials of the ousted regime, three of them top generals, who have fled through the desert to neighbouring Niger this month.
He was flown into the capital Niamey late on Tuesday after being put on an air force Hercules C-130 transport plane from the north-western town of Agadez, Nigerien officials said.
He had been put up in the governor's residence in the desert town with eight close associates of his father after they crossed into Niger on Sunday.
Washington accepted Niamey's assurances that Saadi Gaddafi, who commanded an elite army unit after a brief career as a professional footballer in Italy, was in the custody of Nigerien security forces.
"Our understanding is, like the others, he's being detained in a state guest house," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
"It's essentially a house arrest in this government facility, is our understanding," she added.
Nato said it had no idea whether Gaddafi himself had also fled his country.
Colonel Roland Lavoie, spokesperson for Nato's Libya mission, said the alliance had received, at "various points" in the conflict, intelligence confirming that Gaddafi was still in Libya, but that his whereabouts were now a mystery.
"To be frank we don't know if he has left the country," Lavoie told reporters on Tuesday.
"He has not made public appearances in the country for a while and this raises questions about his whereabouts. But we don't have sure information about where he is at this time."
Gaddafi has only been heard from in audio recordings broadcast by a friendly channel, Syria-based Arrai Oruba television. And his most recent statement was read out by the channel's owner on Monday.
Lavoie stressed that it was not Nato's mission to hunt down the fugitive former strongman.
"We are not in the business of targeting or chasing Gaddafi," he said.
But the Canadian colonel said Gaddafi’s options were increasingly limited as forces loyal to Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) close in on his remaining strongholds,
"Essentially the area of operation of Gaddafi is shrinking."
Lavoie said advances by rebel forces in the past two days had cut pro-Gaddafi forces in the strip of territory between his hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast and the desert town of Bani Walid from those in the southern oases of Waddan and Sabha with their access to Libya's desert border.
The NTC was on Wednesday seeking the surrender of Gaddafi diehards who have continued to mount attacks against its fighters as they move in on the enclaves, after a deadline for them to surrender expired at the weekend.
Nato said on Tuesday that its aircraft had hit 17 targets around Sirte, eight around Sabha and one around Waddan in its latest raids.
The World Bank on Tuesday became the latest international organisation to recognise the victorious rebels' NTC but South Africa said that the African Union had yet to decide on whether to give it Libya's seat in the continental bloc.
"The AU as an organisation has not recognised the NTC," South African President Jacob Zuma told parliament ahead of a meeting in Pretoria on Wednesday of the bloc's panel on Libya.
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that on Wednesday's meeting of panel - which also includes the leaders of Uganda, Mauritania, Mali and Congo-Brazzaville - would focus on the AU's calls for an inclusive government in Tripoli.
She said the AU believes "that the NTC is an opportunity to create an all-inclusive interim government to prepare for a democratic government through a democratic election, preceded by an interim constitution".
The World Bank
The World Bank said its decision to recognise the NTC was based on "evolving events in Libya and the views of member countries".
It pledged a major rebuilding role after the seven-month insurrection that ousted Gaddafi.
The World Bank said it had already been asked by the NTC to work on repairing and restoring water, energy and transport services.
It said it would also work with the International Monetary Fund to support the government budget process and help rebuild the banking sector.
"We are ready to support the people in Libya. Our experts have started co-ordinating with their partners already and we are moving fast to begin work," said World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
Aside from some limited technical assistance, the World Bank had undertaken almost no work in Gaddafi’s Libya in recent years, a spokeswoman said.