Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, April 2011
Regime ‘Seeking Solution’ Amid Diplomatic Drive
By Luke SHRAGO
(video) FRANCE 24 (text)
Following a spate of high-level defections and with a military stand-off that is tearing the country apart, the Libyan regime is reaching out for a diplomatic solution to its current crisis.
An envoy from the Libyan government arrived in Athens on Monday at the beginning of a Europe-wide diplomatic mission to find a way of ending the fighting in the North African country.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi is due to visit Malta and then Turkey following his meeting with Greek officials.
Italy recognises rebel council
Italy on Monday became the second European country after France to recognise Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) as the north African country’s only legitimate voice. Qatar has also recognised the rebel’s authority. Following a meeting with an NTC envoy in Rome, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, “We have decided to recognise the council as the only political, legitimate interlocutor to represent Libya.” Frattini did not rule out arming rebel fighters, which would effectively sidestep the clause in the UN Security Council resolution forbidding foreign intervention on the ground. The foreign minister also reiterated his country’s calls that leader Muammar Gaddafi be replaced as a precondition for any solution to the country’s conflict. Libya is a former Italian colony.
“It seems that the Libyan authorities are seeking a solution,” Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas told reporters, although it remains unclear what exactly the Libyan government is proposing.
Greek officials have already warned that any solution – for example, if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was to hand power to one of his sons – could lead to Libya being split in two.
France, Britain and the United States had ruled this option out before they began launching air strikes against the Gaddafi regime on March 19. The rebel Transitional National Council on Monday also rejected any idea of a transition to democracy under members of the Gaddafi family after the New York Times reported that at least two of Gaddafi’s sons had proposed this option in a deal that would include removing their father from power.
Quoting a diplomat and a Libyan official, the article said the transition would likely be spearheaded by Seif al-Islam, who is believed to have been groomed as Gaddafi’s successor before the popular uprising.
These diplomatic overtures follow a political catastrophe for the Gaddafi regime last week when a trusted Gaddafi adviser, Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, flew to London and announced his defection, followed by former foreign minister Ali Treiki on Sunday.
In a further sign that the Libyan leader’s support may be waning, former premier and government spokesman Abdul Ati al-Obeidi told Britain’s Channel 4 News on Friday that his country was “trying to speak to the British, the French and the Americans to stop the killing of people”.
“We are trying to find a mutual solution,” he added.
A British diplomat confirmed to the Guardian newspaper that Mohammed Ismail, an aide to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, had been in London visiting family. Diplomats there took “the opportunity to communicate to him some very firm messages regarding the Gaddafi regime”.
“If the people on the Gaddafi side want to have a conversation, we are happy to talk,” the unnamed diplomat said. “But we will deliver a clear and consistent message: Gaddafi has to go, and there has to be a better future for Libya.”
Cause for caution
Nevertheless, Western diplomats are likely to be cautious of Libyan government overtures.
Since the uprising in Libya began on February 15, messages and promises from Gaddafi and his regime have been confused, contradictory and sometimes clearly false.
Gaddafi initially accused the terrorist network al Qaeda of fomenting the uprising, and – in the same speech – blamed the same Western nations to which the Libyan government is now reaching out.
And just before the coalition attacks began in mid-March, Gaddafi announced a ceasefire in the country, which he promptly broke as his forces, made up of loyalist government troops and hired mercenaries, launched concerted attacks against rebel positions.
The latest offer of a ceasefire from the rebel side – conditional on Gaddafi leaving the country, withdrawing his troops from all cities and allowing freedom of expression – was rejected out of hand as “mad” by the Libyan government on Friday.
Rebel weakness boosts Gaddafi
Despite the coalition attacks, Gaddafi remains in a position of some strength on the ground.
The rebels have so far proved to be a disorganised force with no central control or heavy weapons. They have failed to hold onto advances despite the coalition air strikes that have been hammering Gaddafi’s forces for more than two weeks.
But that may be about to change. A semblance of order has started to emerge among rebel forces as enthusiastic but undisciplined fighters are pulled off of the front line in favour of seasoned former army soldiers.
Ahmed al-Shiri, a former high-ranking army officer, told the Associated Press news agency that the military council in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi had been working on improvements in the past weeks. He blamed a lack of coordination and organisation for the rebels’ failure to take the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte.
“We are getting orders from the military council now,” he said. “The [rebel] army is in control. These undisciplined fighters aren’t leading the way anymore.”
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April 3, 2011
Libya rebels battle Gaddafi forces in oil town
By Alexander Dziadosz
BREGA, Libya | Sun Apr 3, 2011 2:36pm EDT
BREGA, Libya (Reuters) -
Warplanes flew over Buraiqa (Brega) on Sunday as rebels fought troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi for control of the east Libyan oil town, rebel fighters said.
Near the eastern gate of Buraiqa (Brega), a sparsely populated settlement spread over more than 25 km (15 miles), aircraft and the thud of explosions and machinegun fire could be heard.
Black smoke rose further west and hundreds of cars carrying volunteer rebel fighters streamed away from the town. Later, half a dozen rockets struck near the gate.
Rebels waiting there held their ground while the silhouettes of men and trucks could be seen scouting the desert far beyond the road. Four rockets burst from their launchers and zipped across the wasteland toward Buraiqa (Brega).
Fighting also raged between the university and the western gate near the entrance to the Sirte Oil Company.
"Those planes that circled last night didn't hit anything," rebel fighter Osama Abdullah said, suggesting the absence of air strikes was the result of NATO taking command of the coalition forces from France, the United States and Britain.
"(French President Nicolas) Sarkozy is great but NATO is not," he said.
A Western coalition air strike killed 13 rebels late on Friday near Brega's eastern gate. The rebel leadership called the bombing an unfortunate mistake and said air strikes were still needed against Gaddafi's better-armed units.
A friend of Abdullah who gave his name as Youssef said: "We need weapons that can fight against the tanks and Grads (rockets) that Gaddafi has."
Comments from rebel volunteer fighters near the gate marking Brega's eastern limit suggested that better trained anti-Gaddafi army units continue to battle government forces around the town's university 15 km to the west, without any clear outcome.
"Gaddafi wants Brega because of the oil. He is focusing on Brega and the rebels have the same idea," Ahmed Mansour, an engineer with the Sirte Oil Company living in Brega, said.
"BACK AND FORTH"
The fighting in Brega has gone on for four days, with the rebels holding their ground after beating a chaotic retreat from near Gaddafi's home town of Sirte more than 300 km to the west.
Describing the battle in Brega, rebel fighter Mahdi Idriss said: "It is still back and forth."
"The center of the clashes is in the middle and around the university," he said.
The rebel leadership has sought to break the stalemate by deploying heavier weapons and a firmer line of command.
They also have sought to keep the less disciplined volunteers, and journalists, several kms (miles) east of the front line.
The caravan of lightly-armed volunteer fighters has spent days dashing back and forth along the coast road on Brega's eastern outskirts, scrambling away in their cars and pick-ups as the Gaddafi forces fire rockets toward their positions.
An armoured personnel carrier and a steady trickle of vehicles carrying heavy weapons drove back and forth along the road to Brega, past the charred remains of several vehicles.
A few dozen fighters were praying near the eastern gate. Some others were busy trying to climb a disconnected telegraph pole to raise the rebel flag.
The volunteers tend to get on well with the rebel army but a small scuffle broke out near Brega's eastern gate on Sunday as a soldier berated them for their lack of discipline.
"These revolutionaries go in and fire and that's it. They don't have any tactics, these guys. They cause problems," said the soldier, Mohammed Ali.
Former Air Force Major Jalid al-Libie told Reuters in Benghazi that a brigade of professional soldiers had been formed and it would bring order to the rebel army at the frontline.
"We are reorganizing our ranks. We have formed our first brigade. It is entirely formed from ex-military defectors and people who've come back from retirement."
Asked about numbers, he said he could not reveal that but added: "It's quality that matters."
Libie, a former fighter pilot, said he had joined the rebels at the outset of the uprising.
He conceded that the enthusiasm of the rebel volunteer army was not matched by much military prowess.
"Now this brigade will establish authority on the ground," he said. "Before the end of the week you will see a different kind of fighting and that will tip the balance.
Young Libyans flock unarmed to front line 10:45am EDT U.N. hopes for Libya aid access "as soon as possible" 8:46am EDT Turkish ship evacuates wounded from Libya city 1:02pm EDT
Analysis & Opinion
Qadhafi militia bombed City of Yifrin, in Nafousa Mountain, leaving two killed and four injured between yesterday and today.
http://libya-nclo.com/ (Libyan Opposition website)
April 3, 2011
US and Egyptian special forces have been training Libyan revolution fighters, as reported by Al-Jazeera TV Saturday. It quoted unidentified rebel source, speaking on condition of anonymity as saying that he had received military training in secret facilities in eastern Libya. The rebels received a cargo of Katyusha rockets through Egypt, and Egyptian and American special forces moved to Libya for their help on using modern missiles.
After the arrival of the first planes carrying some of the wounded to Greece, Qatar was the first to receive flights from Benghazi loaded with wounded, some seriously, forcing the plane to land in Greece to treat certain serious cases.
After the arrival of the first planes carrying wounded to Greece, Qatar first received flights from Benghazi loaded with wounded, some seriously, forcing the plane to land in Greece to treat certain serious cases
NATO takes coalition helm as rebels struggle to regroup
By Nicholas RUSHWORTH (video)
FRANCE 24 (text)
The United States has handed over command of air strikes enforcing a UN no-fly zone and protecting civilians in Libya to NATO as anti-regime rebels struggle to regain their momentum against the better-equipped forces of Muammar Gaddafi.
American-led air strike missions over Libya come to an end on Sunday as the situation on the ground appears to be deadlocked between rag-tag rebel forces and the better-equipped government army.
US jets flew 24 missions over the North African country on Saturday before withdrawing those planes from the cycle of ongoing NATO strikes.
The responsibility for leading ongoing combat missions now shifts to NATO command, and particularly to France and Britain.
But this does not mean the United States is abandoning its allies to the fight. US planes can still be requested by NATO, although approval for such missions will have to come from Washington.
The United States will continue to fly refuelling and electronic jamming missions. Nine of its original 12 warships and submarines are still stationed in the Mediterranean.
Rebels weak and disorganised
On the ground, the rebels – despite their enthusiasm – are mostly untrained and uncoordinated.
Trained former members of the Libyan army are now more visible in the rebel front lines and a military council has been established in Benghazi – but overall, Gaddafi’s forces are better equipped and are more disciplined.
Without heavy weapons, the rebels have been unable to consolidate any of their gains, while the loyalist army has used artillery to devastating effect against rebel-held towns.
It remains unclear if Western governments are prepared to move beyond bombing Gaddafi’s military assets on the ground to providing arms and assistance to the opposition.
In a joint opinion piece in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Republican US Senator John McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, said that the US should be offering a “more robust” aid package to the rebels.
“We are concerned that regional support will waver if Western forces are perceived as presiding over a military deadlock. We cannot allow Gaddafi to consolidate his grip over part of the country and settle in for the long haul.”
Defection of ex-foreign minister
Cracks in the Gaddafi camp
After some very high-profile defections, including Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, other Libyan officials said at the end of last week that they are trying to find a “mutual solution” to end several weeks of air strikes.
Former Libyan premier Abdul Ati al-Obeidi told Britain’s Channel 4 News on Friday that his country was “trying to speak to the British, the French and the Americans to stop the killing of people". "We want to find a mutual solution,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Libyan government last week rejected a proposal from the rebel Transitional National Council in Benghazi calling on the regime to withdraw from cities and to allow demonstrations. The Libyan regime denied that the proposal offered a truce and called the rebel demands "impossible.
"The rebels never offered peace. They don't offer peace, they are making impossible demands," government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said. "We will not leave our cities. We are the government, not them.”
Date created : 03/04/2011
FRANCE 24 Allies meets for Libya summit
INTERNATIONAL PRESS REVIEW "Freedom's painful price"
The week in the Maghreb War in Libya: the weapons
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