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Support for popular revolt fading

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-03-17

After two weeks of reporting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier began to witness the diminishing popular support for the insurgency in the rebel stronghold.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the London-educated son of Muammar Gaddafi, has vowed that as forces loyal to the Libyan strongman advance toward the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, "everything will be finished in 48 hours".

In an interview with the France-based TV station Euronews Wednesday, Saif ridiculed French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to recognise the opposition Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. "The military operations are finished,” he said. “In 48 hours everything will be over. Our forces are close to Benghazi.”

FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier returned to Paris on Monday after two weeks of reporting in and around the rebel bastion of Benghazi. He believes that while the Gaddafi regime has long warned that there would be a crackdown on any opposition, this time, the Libyan strongman’s threats seemed convincing. Benghazi, he said, could fall in a matter of weeks or even days. The country’s second largest city, Benghazi has been held by the anti-Gaddafi rebels since February 20.

"The pro-Gaddafi forces have been advancing for a week,” said Vanier. “They are at the gates of Adjabiya (to the west of Benghazi). If Adjabiya falls, there’s nothing to prevent pro-Gaddafi troops from taking Benghazi."

During the two weeks he was in the region, Vanier said he detected a gradual erosion of popular support for the insurgency. “What has changed between the time of our arrival and our departure is that within the population, the support for the resistance movement began to crack. In the early days of the revolt, there was a feeling that there was no stopping the revolution. Every single Libyan sensed it and officially everyone supported the revolution."

Battleground Libya

But 14 days after he arrived, that support began to crack. “When we left, we began to see that this homogeneity was cracking and some people began telling us that they were pro-Gaddafi," he said.

According to Vanier, many Benghazi residents began considering a post-revolution scenario led by Gaddafi, in which they had to be "prepared to make concessions with the 'new' Gaddafi regime.”

To date, only a handful of journalists remain in Benghazi. Most have left Libya for their countries of origin and others are waiting at the borders as the situation evolves. Vanier believes that the risks journalists face in Libya are "real" but "difficult to evaluate”.

"We left Libya at a time when the city of Ajdabiya – where we stayed – was no longer safe. The hotel that lodged many of us journalists had to close because they feared retaliation, especially against journalists. Moreover, on the eve of our departure, a journalist from an international channel was killed," he said, referring to the killing of an Al Jazeera cameraman in Ajdabiya on March 13.



Date created : 2011-03-16


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