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Beachhead: Rebels at Saadi Gaddafi's waterfront villa in Tripoli (Justin Marozzi) 

At the Mellitah Oil and Gas complex, a vast city of pipes and gas-flaring chimneys about 90 minutes west of Tripoli, Dr Ali Tarhuni is being mobbed by crowds of well-wishers. He's here on behalf of the National Transitional Council (NTC) to take back control of the facility from rebel forces from the Zintan Brigade who secured it in late August as they swept down from the Nafusa mountains towards Tripoli. The atmosphere is jubilant.

"We're here to show the world that the revolutionaries are not only capable of conquering Gaddafi and liberating our dear land, but also of protecting our institutions and of managing our own country," says Tarhuni, the oil and finance minister. "It's a great day to see the country getting back to normal-gradually but surely." Volleys of "Allahu akbar!" ("God is great!") greet every bullish pronouncement. After a lightning photoshoot and a quick round of pressing the flesh, he is whisked off in a Mercedes and the event is over.

Tarhuni is getting good at this sort of stuff. Only a few days earlier, at a post-Eid celebration in the prime minister's office in Tripoli, he was kissing babies with the practised ease of a campaigning politician. Until the arrival of Mahmoud Jibril, the interim prime minister, in early September, he was the most senior representative of the NTC in the liberated capital. He was also the first political heavyweight, ahead of both Jibril and Mustapha Abdel Jalil, the NTC chairman, to address euphoric crowds in Tripoli's renamed Martyrs Square, the focal point of the revolution. 

Two observations can be made about the event at Mellitah, a joint venture with the Italian energy giant ENI which is said to be the largest foreign investment in Libya. First, if it's not quite business as usual — there's still fighting to be done and the symbolically important task of capturing or killing Gaddafi — Libya is doing its damndest to show that the country has turned the revolutionary corner and is open for business. In Tarhuni's words, "Our message to the world: your investments are safe in Libya." Judging by the lobby of the Radisson Hotel, venture capitalists are already beating a path to Tripoli.

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