Q&A: Libyan National Council

Amid the popular Libyan uprising against Col Muammar Gaddafi, residents of towns and cities in the areas of eastern Libya controlled by rebels have formed an interim administration.

The Interim Transitional National Council aims to provide political and military leadership, organise basic services and represent Libyans abroad.

How was the council formed?

On 26 February, Mustafa Abdul Jalil was the first person to announce the setting up of a "transitional" government to lead the country.

"Our national government has military and civilian personalities. It will lead for no more than three months, and then there will be fair elections and the people will choose their leader," he told al-Jazeera from the town of Bayda.

The next day, lawyer and community organiser Abdul Hafez Ghoga held a news conference in Benghazi, during which he rejected Mr Abdul Jalil's claim and announced the creation of a "transitional national council" that would be the new "face of Libya".

The council had been set up by politicians in the east mainly to manage daily life in "freed cities" until Col Gaddafi was overthrown, Mr Ghoga said. It would also "help liberate other Libyan cities, in particular Tripoli", working through the part of the army that had announced its support for the rebels.

Mr Ghoga, who described himself as the council's spokesman, insisted it was not a "government", nor would it be contacting other countries. He also dismissed Mr Abdul Jalil as being more influential in Bayda than in Benghazi.

By 1 March, it appeared that agreement had been reached on the creation of an "interim national council" in Benghazi, headed by Mr Abdul Jalil and with Mr Ghoga as his deputy, although its exact title remained unclear.

Four days later, the rebels declared the establishment of the "Interim Transitional National Council of the Libyan Republic" (not of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the name for Col Gaddafi's system of government).

What are the council's aims?

On its website, the Interim Transitional National Council says its aim is to "steer Libya during the interim period that will come after its complete liberation and the destruction of Gaddafi's oppressive regime".

"It will guide the country to free elections and the establishment of a constitution for Libya."

Elsewhere, it states: "We call on all the people of Libya to participate in achieving these lofty goals through the commitment to the noble Libyan ethics and by prioritising our country before the self in the same way our ancestors did to liberate it from the Italian colonisers."

Spokesmen for the council have made similar proclamations and, in addition, vowed that it will not allow Libya to be split into two states.

They have also warned against foreign military intervention, although some have expressed support for a UN-sanctioned military no-fly zone to protect civilians, and air strikes on foreign mercenaries working for Col Gaddafi.

Who supports the council?

Image caption France became the first country to formally recognise the council on 10 March

On its website, the council declares that it "derives it legitimacy from the decisions of local councils set up by the revolutionary people of Libya on 17 February", two days after the first protest in Benghazi.

"These local councils facilitated a mechanism to manage daily life in the liberated cities and villages. The council consists of 31 members representing the various cities of Libya from the east to the west and from the north to the south."

The council has also said its membership is "open to all Libyans".

On its website are oaths of allegiance made people in several towns, including Nalut, Zintan, Ajdabiya, Kufra, Rajban and Maslata.

"We have placed ourselves under the authority of the interim government in Benghazi," said Shaban Abu Sitta, a lawyer in Nalut.

On 10 March, France became the first country to formally recognise the council as the legitimate rulers of Libya and said it would shortly be sending an embassy to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.