Authors: By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday to stop fighting immediately and make way for "a smooth transition" that ensures a free and democratic future for the country.
The U.N. chief told reporters it is important that the conflict ends with no further loss of life and without retribution. He did not specifically call for Gadhafi to step down.
Ban welcomed assurances from rebel leader Mustafa Abdel-Jalil that "extreme care" will be taken to protect civilians and public institutions, and maintain law and order.
Ban announced that he will hold a meeting on Libya later this week with heads of major organizations, including the Arab League, African Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and European Union.
He said the U.N. stands ready to extend "all possible assistance" to the Libyan people once the fighting ends.
"This is a hopeful moment but also there are risks ahead," Ban warned. "Now is the time for all Libyans to focus on national unity, reconciliation and inclusiveness."
For several months, Ban's special adviser on post-conflict assistance, Ian Martin, has been working on plans at U.N. headquarters.
The secretary-general said Martin and special envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib, who had been trying to get the Libyan government and rebels to agree on a cease-fire and political transition, will travel to Doha, Qatar, to meet with the leadership of the opposition National Transitional Council which Jalil heads.
"Certainly Libya will be open to accept assistance of the United Nations and assistance also from the international community as a whole," Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, one of the first Libyan diplomats to disown Gadhafi's regime and support the rebels, said in an AP interview.
Speaking at Libya's U.N. Mission, with the rebels' red, green and black flag behind him, Dabbashi called the upcoming meetings important and said the National Transitional Council will determine what kind of assistance is needed.
The Security Council has imposed sanctions on Libya and authorized military action to protect civilians caught in conflict.
Dabbashi said as soon as the interim government is established in Tripoli it will ask for the arms embargo to be lifted and the "unfreezing" of Libya's assets.
"Without unfreezing the government cannot function normally," he said. "We expect these actions to be taken as soon as possible."
Ban said it is up to NATO to decide when to halt its operations but he said the alliance "has been instrumental" in implementing Security Council resolutions on Libya "and I recognize their efforts to avoid civilian casualties in the course of their operations."