Sunday, 13 March 2011

Libya gains control of more rebel territory

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 13, 2011; 5:39 PM


TRIPOLI - Libya's government said it had taken over the oil terminal of Brega on Sunday and would press eastward to the rebels' self-styled capital of Benghazi, as Western diplomats remained mixed over intervention into the Libyan crisis.
The takeover of Brega came three days after a similar capture of Ras Lanuf, another oil port 77 miles further west, after heavy bombardment.
"Brega has been liberated," said Col. Milad Hussein, a Libyan army spokesman, adding that he did not anticipate a tough battle in Benghazi. He said the government hopes to resolve the crisis "through reconciliation" with tribal leaders in eastern Libya, but he added that the rebel movement is not proving to be a potent adversary.
"To deal with them you don't need full-scale military action," the Libyan spokesman said. "They are groups of people who, when you come to them, they just raise their hands and go. It's not a war against another country."
The announcement came as world leaders debate the merits of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent government airstrikes.
The Arab League on Saturday endorsed the idea, which is to be discussed by NATO representatives this week. France supports the plan and has officially recognized the opposition government.
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But the United States has shied away from a position, fearing an anti-American backlash if it becomes involved in military action in another Muslim country on top of Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to meet with Libyan opposition leaders in Paris on Monday.
Supporters of a no-fly zone fear it may come too late to be useful. The area around Benghazi, the center of rebel command, appeared increasingly unstable over the weekend.
On Saturday, an al-Jazeera cameraman was fatally shot in an apparent ambush outside the city, according to the network, the first report of a journalist killed in Libya since the conflict began.
Ali Hassan al-Jaber, a native of Qatar, was returning to Benghazi from a nearby town after reporting on an opposition protest when the car he was traveling in was shot at, killing him and wounding a colleague.
Opposition strongholds across Libya have been shelled to rubble in recent days, including the western town of Zawiyah, where witnesses, in phone conversations, described massive destruction before disappearing from contact.
A similar fate appeared to threaten Misurata, Libya's third-largest city and the only one outside the east still under rebel control and surrounded by government forces. Continued

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