JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner talked with Tara Bahrampour of The Washington Post in Tripoli a short time ago.
MARGARET WARNER: Tara Bahrampour, thank you for joining us.
Explain to us, would you, why there is such a fierce battle for Sirte? Why is it so important for the revolutionary forces to take this city?
TARA BAHRAMPOUR, The Washington Post: Well, besides having very deep symbolic importance for the country because it’s Gadhafi’s hometown, it has also got very deep strategic importance, because it lies on the coastal route between Benghazi in the east and Tripoli in the west, the two major cities. And that’s pretty much the main road in order to get between them.
The only way at this point that people can do it is to fly. So it’s dividing the country in half.
MARGARET WARNER: And so is it really standing in the way of the new revolutionary — the interim government, standing in their way of uniting the country?
TARA BAHRAMPOUR: It’s not standing in the way physically, so much as the fact that there are still holdout towns is stopping the new government from being able to declare liberation. And there’s a whole timetable set.
Once liberation is declared, once all of these holdout towns fall, then there is a whole timetable of — it takes. The TNC, the Transitional National Council, will then appoint a prime minister, who will appoint his own cabinet to be approved by them.
And then they have got this eight-month process in which they work toward electing a national assembly that will essentially replace them and become the parliamentary body and move things along for forming a Constitution and moving toward further elections.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, it’s been over a month since they took the much larger capital, Tripoli. Why is it proving so hard to take Sirte?
TARA BAHRAMPOUR: There are different theories as to that. There may be very important Gadhafi family members in Sirte and in Bani Walid, which is the other town that is being contested.
Also, Sirte is well-known as a very pro-Gadhafi town, as well as Bani Walid, which has the Warfalla tribe, which has been traditionally quite pro-Gadhafi. And so there are people inside these places who may feel that they have no choice. They’re a bit desperado. They worry that if they do give up, they may be executed and they really have nothing to lose by continuing to fight.
MARGARET WARNER: Tara, you had a very interesting piece in The Washington Post this morning talking about the fact that Libyans, ordinary Libyans are growing impatient with their leadership. What did you mean? Explain that a little more.
TARA BAHRAMPOUR: Well, ordinary Libyans are not hearing very much about the process of nation-building that’s going on right now. And part of the reason for this is because there is some chaos within that process.
Libya is basically a country that was left without any institutions. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya has no real army to speak of. Libya has no parliamentary body. Many of its institutions are just in complete disarray. And so Libyans are waiting for these institutions to start up again.
And in order for that to happen, there has to be some sort of government that they can trust will still be in power a few weeks or a few months from now. And they’re not hearing anything about what that process is going to be. They’re not hearing anything about where the funds are going and how they’re being used. There’s just not a lot of transparency right now.
And Libyans who fought so hard for this revolution want to hear more.
MARGARET WARNER: And how much of an obstacle do the revolutionary forces think it is that Gadhafi is still at large? Where are they — and where are they looking for him?
TARA BAHRAMPOUR: It depends on who you ask. There are people who say that we need to stop thinking about Gadhafi, we need to move on, we need to start building things. There are others who say, well, we really can’t declare liberation until everything is liberated, and they’re hoping that within that liberation Gadhafi will be found.
Now, there’s no telling whether Gadhafi is still in the country or not, but the governing council at the moment seems to feel that he and/or a couple of his sons are still in some of these holdout towns.
MARGARET WARNER: All right.
Well, Tara Bahrampour, thank you so much for joining us.
TARA BAHRAMPOUR: Thank you.