Eastern, western Libyan rebels try to unify before divisions deepen

The rebels from the western mountains who stormed into Tripoli on Sunday night often roll their eyes at their ostensible political leadership, the Transitional National Council, which is based in the eastern city of Benghazi. Many complained that their national leaders did not give them enough support, even after Western governments began allowing them access to the frozen assets of the Qaddafi government…

Rebel leaders say they have worked for months to try to pave the road to a national unity, including within their own ranks. At the start of Ramadan, for example, the chairman of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, flew to the western mountains — after getting NATO’s permission to breach its no-fly zone — so he could pass out financial aid to needy families for the holiday season.

By design, the council includes representatives from across the country. They pledged from the start to keep Libya’s capital in Tripoli, in western Libya, not in Benghazi in the east, a rival center of power in during Colonel Qaddafi’s rule. On Monday, the council announced that it was beginning to relocate its operations.

And despite the grumblings of some on the ground, local and national rebel leaders have sometimes coordinated closely. When rebels in Tripoli began to rise up Sunday, two senior officials from Benghazi were huddled in Tunis with a leader from the western mountains to monitor the movements together. On Monday, Jeffrey D. Feltman, under secretary of state for Near East affairs, said in an interview with CNN’s Web site that he was surprised by the closeness of the communication among rebels across the country.