TRIPOLI, Libya — The chief of Libya's rebel movement flew into the capital Saturday to an enthusiastic if chaotic red-carpet reception, in what officials billed as a historic moment in their efforts to consolidate control of the country.
But rebel fighters encountered stiff resistance as they tried to overrun a key loyalist bastion in the desert 100 miles away, a reminder that the war to end Moammar Gadhafi's rule is not over.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the Transitional National Council, was mobbed by officials in suits, fighters and supporters as he arrived from the eastern city of Benghazi for the first time since Gadhafi's forces were ejected from the capital.
But on the battlefield, the rebels faced more work.
The rebels spent two days skirmishing with loyalist forces in the desert town of Bani Walid but came under rocket, mortar and sniper fire. Then, just as they were making progress Saturday morning, they were forced to retreat so NATO warplanes could get involved.
At least seven airstrikes on loyalist positions soon followed, but the fighters said the momentum of the attack had been lost.
The rebels had been reluctant to attack Bani Walid all week, saying they were trying to avoid a bloodbath. But they gave up on negotiations Friday as they came under rocket fire.
Oil production to resume: Libya's transitional government announced Saturday that crude oil production, which had ground to a halt this year amid a national political uprising, will resume production by midweek with gas production to resume some days later, McClatchy Newspapers reported. Ali Tarhouni, the minister for oil and finance in Libya's transitional government, reported that the country's oil infrastructure had survived in good enough shape to ensure steady production — though well below the 1.2 million to 1.6 million barrels per day that were produced before the uprising.
Reform in Syria? Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi said Saturday that he and Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed on a series of political reforms in Syria, Al-Arabiya TV reported. He offered no specifics about their discussion. The measures will be presented to an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday.