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West edges closer to military action on Libya

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, March 1, 2011 16:11 EDT
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TRIPOLI – The West edged closer on Tuesday to military action against Moamer Kadhafi as the United States said air strikes would be needed to secure a no-fly zone over Libya, and regime forces tried to retake a key city.

US and European leaders weighed the use of NATO air power to impose a no-fly zone, with the aim of stopping Kadhafi using air power against his own people to crush the insurrection against his four decades of iron rule.

Meanwhile, Kadhafi loyalists, who have lost control of much of the country to the rebellion that started on February 15, tried to retake the key western city of Zawiyah but were repulsed.

Kadhafi’s army also moved to re-establish its authority at a border post with Tunisia, to the west, days after leaving the area, witnesses said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Libya was at a crossroads in its history and “the stakes are high.”

“In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war” and descend into chaos, she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The UN refugee agency said the situation on the Libya-Tunisia border was reaching crisis point as desperate expatriate workers poured across, fearful of a bloody rearguard action by diehard regime elements.

More than 100,000 have already left Libya to escape a vicious crackdown by Kadhafi loyalists which has left at least 1,000 dead, according to conservative UN estimates.

“It is not acceptable to have a situation where Colonel Kadhafi can be murdering his own people, using aeroplanes and helicopter gunships and the like,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron, a leading advocate of the no-fly option.

“It’s right for us to plan and look at plans for a no-fly zone.”

Senior US commander General James Mattis told a Senate hearing that any no-fly zone would first require bombing the oil-rich north African nation’s air defense systems.

“It would be a military operation,” said the head of Central Command.

His comments came as the US military moved naval and air forces nearer Libya for possible joint NATO military action.

The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship accompanied by two other vessels, was expected to pass through the Suez Canal soon from the Red Sea, said two defence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

US military leaders are preparing a range of options for President Barack Obama and holding discussions with their European counterparts, but the likelihood of military intervention remained unclear, one official told AFP.

“I think it (the advice) goes from everything from a show of force to something more involved,” the official said, adding: “The president has made no decisions about the use of the military.”

But France’s new Foreign Minister Alain Juppe ruled out military action without a clear UN mandate and also said NATO intervention in Libya might be “extremely counter-productive” in the eyes of Arab public opinion.

Although Kadhafi’s military is badly outgunned by US and NATO aircraft, the regime has dozens of surface-to-air missiles that could shoot down invading warplanes.

The no-fly option received backing from the exiled crown prince of Libya, Mohammed El-Senussi, who said military action should go no further than that.

“Let me be clear. There is a difference between a no-fly zone and military intervention and the Libyan people do not seek external military involvement on the ground. That will not bring about the peace and freedom that we crave,” he said in London, where he has lived since 1988.

Overnight, pro-Kadhafi militiamen attempted to retake Zawiyah, a middle-class dormitory town just 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of Tripoli where several of the veteran leader’s lieutenants have homes, residents told AFP by telephone.

But they fell back when they met resistance from armed opposition supporters controlling the city centre.

“The militiamen did not enter the city centre. They are still on the outskirts. They are heavily armed and have tanks with them.”

The cities of Misrata east of the capital and Gherian to its south also appeared to remain in opposition hands, as was virtually all of the east of the country, including several key oilfields.

Forces at the Wazin border post near Tunisia, which had been deserted by the police and military since Sunday, were reinforced, three witnesses said after returning from the border.

“I saw about 20 troops at Wazin where there were none yesterday,” said one, asking not to be named.

“They were regular army soldiers, some of them wearing a green scarf around the neck. They were armed with automatic Kalashnikov rifles. There were no tanks.”

European Union leaders will gather in Brussels on March 11 for a special summit aiming to deliver a response to the Libya crisis and turmoil in the Arab world, an EU diplomat said on Tuesday.

“What is going on — the massive violence against peaceful demonstrators — shocks our conscience,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

“It should spring us into action.”

Diplomats told AFP the bloc was also eyeing an asset freeze on Libyan firms linked to Kadhafi’s regime.

Anti-regime leaders in Benghazi said on Tuesday they have formed a military council in the eastern Libyan city, which has become the hub of efforts to topple Kadhafi.

The council, comprising officers who joined protesters against Kadhafi’s rule, will liaise with similar groups in other freed cities in the east but it was not immediately clear if there were plans for a regional command.

Salwa Bughaighi, a member of the coalition of lawyers and activists trying to run Benghazi, said her coalition would demand a no-fly zone to prevent Kadhafi from reinforcing his strongholds in Tripoli and Sirte.

Oil prices rose as Libya’s violence sparked global supply jitters, with Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April up $1.75 at $113.55 a barrel.

New York’s light sweet crude for April, known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), gained $1.34 cents to $98.31 a barrel.

And Fitch Ratings said it had cut Libya’s credit ratings three notches to a below investment grade rating of BB, due to the turmoil there.

Anger at authoritarian Arab regimes in the Middle East and North Africa raged from Algeria to Yemen and has spread to the previously unaffected Gulf states of Kuwait and Oman.

Huge crowds poured into the centre of Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Tuesday after an opposition call for a mass rally against President Ali Abdullah, in power since 1978. That drew angry accusations from him that it was all the work of Israel and the United States.

Saleh dismissed the protests across the Middle East as “a storm orchestrated from Tel Aviv and under Washington’s supervision.”

In Oman, armoured cars moved in to disperse protesters who have been demonstrating since Saturday in the key industrial area of Sohar, northwest of the capital Muscat, for jobs and reform in the normally placid Gulf sultanate.

Thousands of Bahrainis again protested in Manama’s Pearl Square, the focal point for anti-regime demonstrations over the past fortnight.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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  • http://twitter.com/Bootstrapbettys Bootstrap Betty

    The US isn’t after Qaddafi, they want to bomb the citizens into compliance just like Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also this will be the US swan song as the rest of the world sanctions the crap out of us for doing so.

  • nadero

    after this article it look like Gadafi is gaining ground against “revolutionaris”

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/YVBA25ZZJYN5C44WGILY6P4X34 Raven

    It’s truly pathetic how the west licks the boots of big oil interests. If there were no oil in Libya NATO would careless about how many citizens where mowed down by air power. More money for war but not one cent for the poor.

  • Guest

    I’m sure that the Libyan people are well aware of how we “liberated” Iraq. After sanctions and a ferocious invasion more than a million Iraqis dead and their country destroyed.

    Maybe that’s why they carry signs saying they would rather do it themselves, thank you very little.

    Edit: But, of course, it’s not ABOUT them. Just as the war in Iraq wasn’t about freedom for the Iraqis, or WMDs.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Why doesn’t that ugly bitch shut her piehole already? She’s turning out to be worse than Bush for crying out loud and that’s pretty hard to beat. There is no dangerous of civil war. None. As soon as Qaddafi is gone, all goes back to normal and peace. Over the last couple of days, they have done nothing but beat the drums of wars from the NYT down to the lowest of the official mouthpieces. The wolves are salivating and ready for the kill. I hope they can do away with Qaddafi soon or they’re gonna have to contend with these mercenaries too and they brave Libyan people will not fair as well as they have with the African mercenaries.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Nothing happened. The protesters made them run for the hills again. The US is doing the same thing they did with Iraq, beating up the drums of war cause they’re dying to invade Libya.

    This is all that happened for the Al Jazeera blog:

    1:40am – Abdullah, a witness speaking to Al Jazeera from Misurata, about 200km east of Tripoli, says:

    There’s now artillery shelling on the suburbs of Misurata and on the Air force college, south west of Misurata. There are also helicopters trying to bomb the local broadcast.

    They are also using heavy weapons against the protestors … also last night helicopters dropped leaflets and threats from the regime.

    A plane fell in the sea and we arrested five of its crew … we have weapons trying to use to defend ourselves but it is normal weapons that cannot be compared to the planes or tanks or armored vehicles or the heavy weapons they use to bomb us … we are the defending righteous and freedom … we want him [Gaddafi] to leave.

    1:30pm – Government opponents in Zawiya repelled an attempt by forces loyal to Gaddafi to retake the city closest to the capital in six hours of fighting overnight, witnesses have told the Associated Press.

    4:24pm – We mentioned earlier that Gaddafi’s troops were gathering outside Nalut. Here’s what one resident of the city just told Al Jazeera:

    Last night, before sunset, about 25 armed cars tried to enter the vicinity of Nalut town and controlled one of the entrances. We had to to pull back, and took guard of [another] entrance to the town, helping journalists and medical aid as well as food supplies into the town.

    We heard that the news about tanks and other armed vehicles was not true at the time. It was not a very large-sized force.

    http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/live-blog-libya-march-1

  • Anonymous

    Just what we needed in the middle of an economic collapse–another damn war!

    Who would have guessed this?

    How many still think the CIA isn’t involved in any of these new middle east democracy pushes?

    It’s all being run by the locals on facebook and youtube, right?

  • Brimstone Hill

    Wow……..It only took 100 years and the Country that Protected the world from imperialism has now become the Empire. Our political soul has been hijacked by a bunch of greedy maniacal Plutocrats that think they can rule the world by pushing their form of dictocracy.
    Welcome to the NWO, and I am not referring to wrestling.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FPBFO6RC5R2HHIP3VXSFU2RZQA mjj

    We are way to quick to institute military action. Day by day Q has less and less power. His infantry commander just jumped ship. He has no control in the east and most of the west is controlled by the opposition.

  • Anonymous

    “‘In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war’ and descend into chaos, (Clinton) told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

    And if a civil war doesn’t actually happen, maybe the CIA could actually drum one up (not like we haven’t done that before, many times over,) and then, gosh-o-golly-geez, the US could demand that the world (NATO) intervene militarily in that dripping-with-oil and geographically large and strategic African state? I hear we do need more military bases in Africa…wait a minute….do you hear that?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCeDBJlghyY

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N6BJ56PKHQMYMIH3LYCOQC233I Sidd

    Unfortunately, the Marines will be in Tripoli soon. The name of that city is in their song.

  • Anonymous

    This was another item on the Bush/Cheney/ Republican HIT list..

  • Nickelthrower

    Greetings,

    That is really giving a lot of credit to the CIA. Now, I am suspicious of the claims that this is an internet revolution if only because the mainstream media keeps pushing the idea. That said, it is much easier to talk about facebook than to talk about all those failed crops this year and the food and energy shortages that are now looking us dead in the face.

    Things are about to get real.

  • Anonymous

    The West cannot wait to go to War!

    I know that it is not about Oil we are only concerned with the opposition

    There is disinformation being put out by Western Media to give an excuse to intervene, .

    There is no doubt that people are being killed, and that must stop

    Would we want other countries to intervene should riots, police brutality, etc. occur here

    Libya appears to be heading for a civil war.

    Kadhafi was the friend of the west until the revolution.

    Think before you leap

  • Anonymous

    Methinks Hillary is looking the wrong way. If Oman goes the Saudi’s will be almost completely surrounded by the fever of uprisings. If Saudi goes, oil stocks are heading for the Moon.

  • Mr. Fusion

    I have little problem with NATO making incursions into Libya. An emergency UN resolution may be gotten if people are that worried.

    Quaddafy should NOT be allowed to continue his assault and murder of civilians. I am not talking about an occupation. Eventually he will be gone, but it would be senseless to sit back and watch needless death because we were afraid of another Iraq.

    Libyans are no less deserving of freedom than are North Americans or Europeans.

  • Anonymous

    This would be a great opportunity for Exxon (US Air Force) to get involved.

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