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New council in Libya seems to be Church-friendly

ROME (Agencies): As the troops of Libyan strongman, Moammar Gadhafi, retreat and rebel forces of the National Transitional Authority storm into the capital city of Tripoli, three priests in the city say that the streets are still far from safe.

“Currently the three Franciscans are barricaded in the convent in Tripoli,” Agenzia Fides reports. “No one dares to walk in the streets, because people are shot on sight, even if it is not clear who shoots who, and it is dangerous for civilians to leave their houses.”

Fides reports, “Currently the telephone lines to the convent are cut and we cannot contact the monks. From the latest communications we were told that on the night between August 21 and 22 there was shooting outside the convent.”

However, it adds that the situation in Benghazi seems to be better. One report from the city says, “There have not been any particular difficulties encountered in the pastoral ministry with the new authorities. Back in March and April there were problems about public order, but now the transitional authorities have gradually taken over the situation.”

CBCP News reported that the director of Caritas in the country, Father Amado Baranquel, described the civil war as horrifying, but added that the majority of his congregation, which is Filipino, seems to be safe. However, he added that they are marooned in their homes, as the streets are not safe because of the fighting between forces loyal to Gadhafi and the rebels.

Father Baranquel told Radyo Veritas in Manila on August 24 that the violence has escalated recently, despite the fact that the rebels have claimed victory. “The sounds of firing and fighting are still horrifying,” the priest said, adding that he believes that the rebels more or less are in control.

He added that the sound of gunfire is still heard every day, but it is not always clear if it is fighting or just people celebrating. “Either way, it is dangerous to go out,” he noted.

AsiaNews reported on August 26 that Beijing had already contacted the new National Transitional Council seeking to protect its investments in the oil-rich country. On August 22, Abdelijalil Mayouf, manager of the new council-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Company, warned China, Russia and Brazil that they could be well down the priority list when business returns to normal, as they were slow to remove their support from Gadhafi.

The deputy head of the Ministry of Commerce and Trade in Beijing, Wen Zhongliang, said, “China’s investment in Libya, especially its oil investment, is one aspect of mutual economic cooperation between China and Libya, and this cooperation is in the mutual interest of both the people of China and Libya.”

In March this year, both China and Russia abstained when the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 to support the actions of NATO in Libya. Both countries said a diplomatic solution should be pursued.

However, recently, China has changed its tune and invited the new council to send diplomats to meetings in Benghazi. Last year, China sourced three per cent of its oil from Libya.