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Africa

Rebels struggle to keep hold of east

Video by Mark Thompson

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-03-14

Libyan rebels were pushed back from most opposition-held positions in eastern Libya as forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi continued their drive towards the city of Benghazi and international leaders mulled implementing a no-fly zone.

Forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi pushed back rebels from coastal cities in eastern Libya as part of the drive to take back the de facto opposition capital of Benghazi and stamp out the weeks-long uprising against the regime.

After Gaddafi’s troops regained control of the key oil port city of Brega on Sunday, rebel leaders said the battlefront had moved to the city of Ajdabiya, another strategic location held by the opposition.
 
General Abdel Fatah Yunis, Gaddafi's former interior minister, vowed to defend Ajdabiya, which lies 160 kilometres south Benghazi. "It's on the route to the east, to Benghazi and to Tobruk and also to the south. Ajdabiya's defence is very important... We will defend it," Yunis told reporters.
 
Libya: Two unequally armed but very determined camps
Gaddafi’s warplanes bombed a weapon’s depot in Ajdabiya on Monday, Ahmed al-Zwei, who is on the Ajdabiya city council, told AFP. The airstrike was also intended to cut off supplied to rebel fighters at the front nearby, al-Zwei was quoted as saying.
 
Ali Saleh, a rebel soldier, told FRANCE 24 by phone that opposition forces had taken up positions in the city’s main traffic intersections. “They have set up barricades and sandbags to defend themselves and to fight off an eventual assault,” he said, adding that many Ajdabiya residents had already fled toward the east.
 
With the fall of Zawiyah in the west, and eastern towns of Uqayla, Ras Lanuf and Brega, --cities formally held by the opposition-- rebels forces were also bracing for an eventual assault on Benghazi. “Even if the fight against Gaddafi’s forces is not equal, given their aerial superiority, we are not afraid of death,” a rebel soldier and former colonel in the republican guard told FRANCE 24.
 
Pro-Gaddafi forces also retook Zuwarah, one of the last rebel-held towns in western Libya, after a day of heavy pounding by artillery, residents told Reuters. This left only Misrata, 200 km east of Tripoli, as a major city held by insurgents in Libya’s west.
 
Diplomatic ballet in Paris
 
While desert battles raged on in Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was preparing to host the foreign ministers of the G8 group of the world’s most powerful countries in Paris. On Monday evening and Tuesday, the ministers will further consider the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya; a move that would hand a strategic blow to Gaddafi.
 
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reportedly scheduled to meet with representatives of the opposition National Transitional Council during her visit to Paris on Monday.
 
 
On Saturday, the Arab League lent its support to a no-fly zone --which has been vigorously demanded by the Libyan opposition-- calling on the Security Council to authorize the UN to prevent the bombing and protect civilians.
 
But China and Russia, both permanent members of Security Council of the United Nations, have expressed skepticism about it, while India, non-permanent member, has clearly voiced its opposition to the plan. Predictably, the Security Council failed to reach a decision at a meeting convened Monday to discuss the proposal.  
 
But European Union foreign affair chief Catherine Ashton said Monday that the EU was sending a mission to rebel-held Benghazi “to support ongoing prudent planning in response to the Libyan crisis”.

 

Date created : 2011-03-14

  • LIBYA

    Rebels retreat from Brega in the face of heavy shelling

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  • LIBYA

    Arab League supports no-fly zone

    Read more

  • LIBYA

    Gaddafi troops attack rebel-held Misrata in west

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