Misrata: Libya's interim government was on Sunday poised to launch a final assault on towns still loyal to Muammar Gaddafi after a deadline for surrender expired, with its leader saying it was now in his military commanders' hands to decide when to act.
   
Libya's new interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil arrived in Tripoli for the first time since his forces seized the city last month and was treated to a red-carpet welcome at the Metiga military base.
   
His arrival in Tripoli, where he was mobbed by hundreds and had to be protected by a thick human chain, was eagerly awaited in hopes it would help tackle rivalries emerging among rebel groups that overthrew Gaddafi.
   
The battle for one Gaddafi stronghold, Bani Walid, already got off to a fitful and unscheduled start overnight, but fighters of the National Transitional Council withdrew today, apparently in anticipation of a NATO air strike.
   
"Last night the deadline passed," Abdel Jalil told local leaders in the long-besieged town of Misrata, as he made his way to Tripoli.
   
"We have extended it more than once, trying to clear the way for a peaceful resolution."
   
"Now the situation is in the hands of our revolutionary fighters," he said, effectively giving commanders authority to attack Bani Walid, Sirte, Sabha and other pro-Gaddafi enclaves.
   
"We have spoken to them through their leaders and have left it to them to make the decision whenever they chose," he said.
   
That was echoed in Tripoli by Omar al-Hariri, who oversees NTC military affairs, said that the war against pro-Gaddafi pockets in Bani Walid and Sirte could take up to a week to win depending on the intensity of the resistance.

(Agencies)