Fierce fighting rages, Gaddafi regime rejects `mad` ceasefire

Last Updated: Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 23:49

Tripoli: Fierce fighting raged on Saturday
between the rebels and troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi for the
control of the eastern oil town of Brega as the government of
the embattled leader dismissed conditions for a ceasefire as
"mad".

Opposition forces and Libyan troops were locked in
intense battle near Brega and the towns of Az Zintan and
Misurata, the last major opposition stronghold in west for
weeks amid relentless air strikes by coalition forces.

In the village of Argkuk, near Ajdabiya, Al Jazeera
reported the death of seven civilians and injuries to 25
others in what appeared to be a NATO-led coalition air strike
on a pro-Gaddafi vehicle carrying ammunitions. BBC said Nato
was investigating the report.

Mussa Ibrahim, the government spokesman, termed the
strike a "crime against humanity".

He also scorned rebel conditions for a nationwide
ceasefire, term it "mad".

"They are asking us to withdraw from our own cities.
.... If this is not mad then I don`t know what this is. We
will not leave our cities," Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Al
Jazeera channel.

He said Gaddafi`s troops would never withdraw from the
rebel-held cities and remain stationed there.

In the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi, opposition leader
Mustafa Abdul Jalil yesterday said they would agree to a
ceasefire if Libyans still under Gaddafi`s regime are granted
freedom of expression and forces loyal to him withdraw from
cities.

"We agree on a ceasefire on the condition that our
brothers in the western cities have freedom of expression and
also that the forces that are besieging the cities withdraw,"
he said at a joint press conference with Abdelilah Al-Khatib,
the UN envoy.

Soon after the UN resolution authorising international
air strikes against Libya was approved, Gaddafi had announced
a ceasefire immediately. However, his troops have besieged
Misurata and attacked eastern cities that have slipped out of
his control, including the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.

Amid the intense fighting in the east, the Arab
channel said the rebels appeared to have more communication
equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were
working in more organised units.

Abdel Fatah Yunis, the former interior minister who
resigned to join the opposition, has been appointed as the
commander of the opposition military forces combating
pro-Gaddafi troops, Al Jazeera said.

The channel quoted Ali Tarhouni of the opposition`s
National Transitional Council as saying that Qatar has agreed
to market oil currently in storage in rebel-controlled areas
of southeastern Libya. He said it would enable the rebels to
buy more arms.

Even as Gaddafi`s forces have recaptured the
rebel-held towns including Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, there was
mounting speculation of his aides looking for an exit
strategy.

The embattled leader suffered a major setback when his
Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa defected. Top Libyan leader Ali
Abdessalam Treki, who had been named country`s new envoy to
UN, spurned the job and defected to Egypt.

Treki, a former foreign minister and ex-president of
the UN General Assembly who has worked closely with Gaddafi
for decades, announced his exit on opposition websites,
declaring "it`s our right to live in freedom and democracy."

There is speculation that some other senior leaders,
close to 68-year-old Gaddafi, may also dump him in a bid to
end his 42-year-old rule.

Al-Jazeera and other media reports said guards have
been posted to prevent any other official from leaving the
country.

According to BBC, top Gaddafi envoy Mohammad Ismail
has been in London for the past few days for talks with
British authorities.

It said the visit had come in the backdrop of
speculation that Gaddafi`s sons, particularly Saif ul-Islam,
Saadi and Mutassim are willing to discuss exit strategies for
the whole family or only the Libyan leader.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 23:49

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