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Libyan Fighters Launch Attacks East and West, Qadhafi Still Defiant, NATO Contact Group Meets in Istanbul

Libya stalemate begins to show signs of breaking

BEIJING, July 17, 2011 (Xinhua) --


The stalemate in Libya has in the past week appeared to begin giving way to the advancing rebels, as the opposition was buoyed by the news their regime was recognized by a number of major powers.


On the battle front, after months of NATO-led bombings and seesaw battles, the rebels fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's government forces reached towns only dozens of kilometers from the capital Tripoli.


And on the political front, the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) was recognized as "the legitimate governing authority in Libya" by more than 30 countries in Istanbul on Friday.

The rebels' military advance and the recognition by the United States of the NTC bring pressure to bear on Gaddafi's forces, as billions of dollars in frozen Libyan funds could be unlocked -- good news for the cash-strapped rebels.

Meanwhile, a change of stance was also seen from Russia, who had been an advocate of negotiations between the warring sides. Moscow now agrees with Washington that Gaddafi's "days are numbered" and that the crisis should end with his ouster.

While NATO has been intensifying airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces, the defiant Libyan leader on Saturday vowed never to leave his country, in an audio address to supporters in the city of Zawiya, some 50 km west of Tripoli.

Whether the conflict would eventually come to an end with a military victory for either of the two sides, or the crisis would be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, the trend and outcome of the "chess game" in Libya is becoming more apparent anyway.

Editor: Deng Shasha

Libya's Gaddafi vows to stay as NATO intensifies air raids

TAJOURA/TRIPOLI, Libya, July 17, 2011 (Xinhua) --


A new round of NATO airstrikes rattled the suburbs of the Libyan capital Sunday as Muammar Gaddafi vowed never to leave his country.

Tripoli's eastern suburban town of Tajoura came under heavy NATO air strikes in the early hours of Sunday, and at least 20 huge explosions were heard by Xinhua correspondents at the scene.
The air strikes have been going on for at least an hour and columns of heavy smoke were rising everywhere as a result of the bombing of the town, roughly 25 km east of Tripoli, the correspondents reported from there.

Libyan state television Al-Jamahiriya reported that NATO has raided civilian and military sites.
The television, quoting a military source, said there had been victims but did not give any figure.
Earlier, Gaddafi said that he would never leave his country or surrender in the face of rebel attacks and NATO airstrikes.

"They are asking me to leave. That's a laugh. I will never leave the land of my ancestors or the people who have sacrificed themselves for me," he said Saturday in an audio address to supporters in the city of Zawiya,some 50 km west of Tripoli.

"After we gave our children as martyrs, we can't backtrack, or surrender or give up or move an inch," he said.

In his speech, Gaddafi also said the NATO air raids on Libya must stop to avoid more civilian casualties.

The embattled leader's speech came after Libya's main opposition group had been recognized by more than 30 nations as Libya's legitimate government.

On Friday, the Libya Contact Group recognized the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) as the sole and legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.

The announcement was made shortly after the conclusion of the fourth meeting of the group in Istanbul, which was attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and officials from 32 countries and seven international organizations.
"Henceforth and until an interim authority is in place, participants agreed to deal with the National Transitional Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya," the group said in a statement.
It said Gaddafi's government no longer had any legitimacy in Libya and that he and his family members must leave the country.

The statement also said that the group welcomed the role of the NTC in leading the transition process in Libya and expressed support for its efforts to broaden its popular base to embrace all Libyan people.

While NATO continues its heavy bombing of Libya, the Libyan opposition forces have failed to make significant advances recently.

On Saturday, the opposition forces suffered their bloodiest day in the offensive to seize the control of the country's strategic oil town of Brega.

NTC spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told reportes in the rebels' stronghold of Benghazi the opposition forces' advance to Brega had been slowed by minefields but they were preparing to enter the town "within days."

"The battles have caused some casualties, as Gaddafi's forces laid landmines in and around Brega," he said. "But our special forces managed to push forward a few kilometers and disarm some landmines."

At least ten rebels have been reported killed and more than 170 wounded since the offensive began on Thursday.

Editor: Tang Danlu

Gaddafi vows to remain in Libya as rebels advance
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has vowed not to go into exile despite a new offensive by rebels on the key refinery town of Brega. In a defiant loudspeaker address to supporters, Gaddafi said he would never leave the land of his ancestors.
By News Wires (text)



Fresh blasts rocked Tripoli on Sunday after veteran Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi vowed never to give in to mounting calls to go into exile despite a new offensive by rebels seeking to oust him.

At least 13 explosions were heard before and just after 1 am (2300 GMT Saturday). An AFP journalist was unable to say immediately what the targets had been.


State television reported that “the colonialist crusader aggressor” had raided civilian and military sites in the Ain Zara district and in Tajoura in the eastern suburbs.


The blasts came just hours after Kadhafi had insisted in a defiant speech that he would never quit his homeland.


“They are asking me to leave. That’s a laugh. I will never leave the land of my ancestors or the people who have sacrificed themselves for me,” he said in a loudspeaker address to supporters in Zawiyah, west of the capital.


“I’m ready to sacrifice myself for my people, and I will never quit this land sprinkled with the blood of my ancestors who fought Italian and British colonialists,” he said.


“These rats have taken our people hostage in Benghazi, Misrata and the western mountains, using them as human shields,” Kadhafi said of the rebels’ eastern stronghold and their two enclaves in the mainly government-held west.


“Five million armed Libyans will march on them and liberate the occupied towns as soon as the order is given.”


Libya’s rebels on Saturday suffered their bloodiest day yet in the offensive to wrest control of Brega from Kadhafi’s troops, as medics said the death toll had risen to at least 12.


Nine people were killed on Saturday and 79 wounded as loyalist landmines began to vie with Grad rockets to ramp up the casualties, according to a list from the hospital in nearby Ajdabiya.


Rebels said their steady advance on the key refinery town was slowed by the discovery of defensive trenches that had been filled with flammable chemicals by the retreating loyalist forces.


After a small rebel reconnaissance unit punched through into Brega late on Friday before falling back, a rebel commander said troops were now moving “slowly but surely” towards it from east, north and south.

It was not clear what kind of chemicals were being used, but Brega is home to a large petrochemical facility that produces a range of oil by-products.


At a hospital in Ajdabiya, Dr Ahmed Dinari said many of the casualties were caused by landmines rather than heavy artillery.


“We have had five more injuries this morning, all of them from mine explosions,” he said.
Lying prone in “Bed 2,” 19-year-old Ali Saleh said he had been in the central rebel column when his armoured personnel carrier hit a mine.


“We were very close to Brega at around 3 am (0100 GMT). Then we got instructions from NATO to fall back and as we were falling back the vehicle hit a mine, destroying the chain track.”


He was suffering from shock and a lightly damaged knee. Sagezli said 250 mines had been uncovered so far.


The alliance said that on Saturday it hit one tank, five armed vehicles, a multiple rocket launcher and another rocket launcher in and around Brega.


In raids east of Tripoli, NATO-led aircraft took out three radar, a surface-to-air missile launcher and a military storage facility, the alliance added.


Southwest of the capital, rebel fighters exchanged rocket and machine-gun fire with Kadhafi’s forces early on Sunday both in the Nafusa Mountains and in the plains below around Bir Ayad, a key junction on the road to Tripoli, AFP correspondents reported.


The rebels’ senior commander for the region, Mokhtar Farnana, said they were consolidating their grip on the territory they already held for fear of loyalist counter-attack.


“The most important thing is to keep hold of the territory we have captured and to make it safe before making further attacks,” Farnana told AFP.


“We will not allow Kadhafi’s forces to retake places we have captured.”

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Date created : 17/07/2011

Rebels suffer casualties as fighting erupts across Libya
Rebels suffer casualties as fighting erupts across Libya
Ten Libyan insurgents were killed and 172 wounded on Saturday when a rebel offensive on the oil port of Brega in eastern Libya was repelled by Gaddafi loyalists. Fresh fighting was also reported in the Western Mountains, south of capital Tripoli.
By News Wires (text)


Ten Libyan rebels were reported killed and 172 wounded in an attack on the eastern oil port of Brega on Saturday, while insurgents drove back forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in the west.

In the latest of a series of speeches apparently designed to show he enjoys support in the areas he controls, Gaddafi described the rebels as worthless traitors and rejected suggestions that he was about to leave the country.


“They said Gaddafi will go to Honolulu,” he said in a televised speech. “This is funny: To leave the graves of my forefathers and my people? Are you serious?”


His defiance came a day after Western and Arab powers, led by the United States, said the rebel leadership was the legitimate government of Libya. Reports have circulated that Gaddafi is seeking a negotiated way out of the crisis.


Brega’s oil resources make it a prize for the rebels, who have been trying to dislodge Gaddafi’s troops in the face of rocket bombardments, according to Al Jazeera television.


Most opposition fighters are about 20 km (12 miles) outside Brega, kept back by Grad rockets fired by government forces, the network reported. The rebels had however captured four government soldiers.


In the Western Mountains, where insurgents are trying to push towards Tripoli, heavy fighting erupted on Saturday.


Sustained gunfire and volleys of artillery could be heard from the village of Bir Ayad, 15 km (9 miles) south of the front line at the town of Bir Ghanam.


Rebels at Bir Ghanam hold the high ground on the outskirts of the town, their closest position to Tripoli, about 80 km (50 miles) away.


Ahmed, a rebel fighter in Bir Ayad, said a convoy of about 15 vehicles from Gaddafi’s forces tried to approach Bir Ghanam, but the rebels fired at it and the convoy retreated after a about an hour of shooting.


“They were in a column at first but when we started firing they split into groups of three or four vehicles and all of them fled,” local rebel commander Fathi Alzintani told Reuters.


Assaults repelled


Rebels in the Western Mountains have made progress in recent weeks after repelling assaults by Gaddafi’s forces. Their next goal is Garyan, a town that controls the highway south from Tripoli.

But the rebels have been hampered by divisions, ill-discipline and supply problems.


In Misrata, the rebels’ main stronghold in the west, three rebel fighters have been killed and four injured in the past 24 hours, hospital staff said.


Away from the battlefield, Gaddafi has made a series of audio speeches to coincide with state television broadcasts of rallies attended by thousands of people in Tripoli and elsewhere.


As loyalists gathered on the streets of the town of Zawiyah, near the capital, on Saturday, Gaddafi said the rebels were “apostates” who had “become Christians”.


Calling on the rebels to lay down their arms, he said:

“Islam is being humiliated by the cross ... They are burning mosques with bombs.”


“We have given martyrs, yes ... It’s impossible to compromise or make the slightest concession.”

Crowds were shown firing to the air at the end of the speech.


Rebel leaders received a boost in their campaign to oust Gaddafi on Friday when they won recognition as the legitimate government of Libya from the United States and other powers.


Western nations said they also planned to increase the military pressure on Gaddafi’s forces to press him to give up power after 41 years at the head of the North African state.


Recognition of the rebels by the international contact group on Libya is an important diplomatic step that could unlock billions of dollars in frozen Libyan funds.


The decision came as reports circulated Gaddafi had sent out emissaries seeking a negotiated end to the conflict, although he remains defiant in public.


The contact group also agreed on a road map whereby Gaddafi should relinquish power and put forward plans for Libya’s transition to democracy under the rebel National Transitional Council.

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Date created : 16/07/2011

Libya contact group meets amid Gaddafi defiance
The Libya “contact group” of 15 countries are meeting in Istanbul Friday to discuss how to fund Libyan rebels and to see how a negotiated settlement could work. But Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi remains defiant and is taking the fight to the rebels.
By FRANCE 24 (text)

Top diplomats from some 15 countries are meeting in Istanbul Friday in an attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the military stalemate in Libya.

It is the fourth meeting of the Libyan “contact group”, which includes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his French counterpart Alain Juppé.

On the table are options for granting the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) loans in lieu of Libyan funds that are frozen in international bank accounts.

The TNC is desperate for cash, not only to fund the fight against Gaddafi, but also to maintain basic services in rebel-held areas.

The contact group will also be discussing ways in which a negotiated settlement between the rebels and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi could work.

France played a leading role in rallying world support for the rebel movement and was the first country to recognise the TNC in March.

France also said this week it had had “contacts” with the Gaddafi Regime in Tripoli, and on Tuesday said that a diplomatic solution was within reach.

The US, however, has warned of contradictory messages coming out of Tripoli.

And in the context of determined fighting from troops loyal to Gaddafi this week, a quiet exit by the strongman may be wishful thinking, said FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Istanbul Jasper Mortimer.

“Gaddafi has repeatedly said he will fight to the end,” Mortimer said. “He may well be bluffing, but as long as his troops keep fighting back as they did yesterday we have to take him at his word.”

Gaddafi defiant

Gaddafi’s men, despite being weakened by the NATO bombing, have been taking the fight to the rebels, who on Thursday were trying to solidify their positions near Asabah, a strategic city 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of capital Tripoli.

"Yesterday, we got to within six kilometres (four miles) of Asabah, but most of our forces have returned" to Gualish, where rebels were resisting a counterattack by loyalist troops in the desert hamlet, said local commander Abdel Majid Salem.

Salem said the bulk of the rebels had returned to "secure the area" around Gualish, which was attacked and captured by soldiers loyal to the Tripoli regime earlier in the week.

Reinforcements later poured in from villages and drove the loyalists out, chasing them up the road toward Asabah.

On Thursday Gaddafi urged his men to march on the rebel capital Benghazi, in eastern Libya, to liberate the city of “traitors.”

"The hour of battle has sounded,” he said in a message relayed by loudspeaker across capitel Tripoli. “Prepare to march on Benghazi and on [rebel-held] Misrata, and on the mountains of the west.

“We are here and we will stay here on this ground ... I will stay with my people until the last drop of my blood is spilled," a defiant Gaddafi said.

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Date created : 15/07/2011

Libya's rebels court EU as abuse allegations emerge
Libya’s rebels are on a PR drive in Europe to shore up support and build up legitimacy on the international scene – an effort that may be undermined by alleged human rights abuses.
By Clovis CASALI (video)
Tony Todd (text)

The head of Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) met with the president of the European Commission as part of the TNC’s drive to achieve international recognition and legitimacy, as reports emerged detailing allegations of human rights abuses committed by rebel forces.

FRANCE 24 journalist David Thomson reported that he had witnessed events in Libya that confirmed Human Rights Watch (HRW) allegations of looting, arson and abuse of civilians by the rebels.


Thomson, who was following the rebel forces operating in the Nafusa mountains south of Tripoli, said he saw “scenes of devastation” behind the front lines.


“I saw villages burned and looted,” he said. “And as the HRW report says, some people, mostly black Africans believed to be fighting as mercenaries for the Gaddafi regime, were beaten and sometimes executed.”


He added: “The rebel forces may not be quite as clean-cut as the coalition is making them out to be.”


HRW said two of the towns in question were home to a tribe close to Gaddafi: "Al-Awaniya and Zawiyat al-Bagul are home to members of the Mesheshiya tribe, known for its loyalty to the Libyan government.”


On Wednesday the TNC forces rejected the HRW accusations.


Friends in Europe

The allegations could not come at a worse time, with the TNC on a drive to boost its ties in Europe and to increase its legitimacy on the international scene.


On Wednesday, the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) recognised the rebel council, and TNC leader Mahmud Jibril was due to meet with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.


FRANCE 24’s Meabh McMahon, reporting from Brussels, said the HRW report, although critical, was not a PR disaster for the TNC.


“These allegations won’t do the rebels many favours but I don’t think they will change the international community’s position,” she said, adding that the EU, and in particular its foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, had been particularly keen supporters of the TNC from the outset.


“The statement this morning was perhaps a warning to the rebels not to abuse their power,” said McMahon. “It is also a reminder to world leaders to be prudent ahead of Friday’s ‘contact group’ meeting with the TNC in Istanbul.”


France, which was the biggest advocate of military action against Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi’s regime, was the first country to recognise the TNC.


On Tuesday, the French government reaffirmed its commitment to the TNC as both houses of parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of continued military intervention in Libya.


Last month, it emerged that France had made a weapons drop to rebels in the same area of the Nafusa mountains, which was sharply criticised by Russia and other critics of the NATO offensive against Gaddafi.


France has since stated that it has stopped delivering arms to the rebels.

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