Gaddafi`s forces set for Benghazi, Arab League mulls `no-fly` zone

The Arab channel said that Gaddafi`s forces are now in a good position to take on Benghazi.

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2011, 23:55 PM IST

Cairo: Forces loyal to Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi on Saturday were within striking distance of the main opposition-held eastern city of Benghazi after they stormed into the city of Brega, as the Arab League mulled support for
a `no-fly` zone over the restive country.

With air supremacy and a big advantage in tanks,
Gaddafi`s forces are keeping up the momentum on the ground.

"The rebel forces, who for weeks rapidly advanced on
the capital Tripoli in a bid to oust Gaddafi, are loosing
steam to the better armed government forces," al-Jazeera
reported from Brega.

Anti-Gaddafi rebels have been pushed out of the
northern oil town of Ras Lanuf, reports said. BBC said the
government forces now control the town and its oil refinery.

The fall of the town was confirmed by Libya`s former
interior minister Gen Abdul Fateh Younis, who has defected to
the rebels. But he vowed that his fighters would launch a
counter-attack latest by Sunday.

The Arab channel said that Gaddafi`s forces were now
in a good position to take on Benghazi, Libya`s second largest
city and the seat of the rebels` National opposition Council,
which was recognised by France recently.

Columns of Libyan tanks backed by fighters and
gunships entered the city of Brega, which was captured by the
rebels just a week back after fierce fighting.

Under pressure from the pro-Gaddafi forces, the rebels
have repeatedly called on the international community to
impose a `no-fly` zone to stop air strikes on cities, but have
been against foreign military intervention on the ground.

The 22-member Arab League at an emergency meeting in
Cairo today mulled support of plans to impose a no-fly zone
over Libya.

It is also considering to open channels of contact
with rebel body of national council, media reports quoting
sources said.

"The United Nations, the Arab League, the African
Union, the Europeans - everyone should participate," Amr
Mussa, the League`s Secretary General, told the German weekly
Der Spiegel.

A sanction by the Arab League is likely to pave the
way for the US and its European allies to go ahead with
enforcing the zone, which effectively neutralise Gaddafi`s air
power.

As the sea-saw battle continued in Libya, US President
Barack Obama has warned that "the noose" around Libyan ruler
was tightening and said the international community had an
obligation to prevent a Rawanda-style civilian massacre in the
north African nation.

"Across the board, we are slowly tightening the noose
on Gaddafi," Obama said at a White House news conference,
which was dominated by the Libyan uprising and the Japanese
tsunami tragedy.

In his first indication of a US tilt towards Libyan
rebels, Obama said he would appoint an envoy to Libyan
opposition forces as part of efforts to "change" the balance
of the military situation in the war-torn country.

Expressing concern over Gaddafi targeting civilians,
the US president said: "I`m concerned. Gaddafi has stash of
weapons and some troops that remain loyal to him and there
have been reports that he`s also been hiring mercenaries."

The President did not disclosed whether the US and its
allies would go ahead to arm the rebels as has been demanded
by the Libyan opposition leaders.

"We have determined that it`s appropriate for us to
assign a representative to interact with the opposition and
determine ways that we can further help them," Obama said in
Washington.

Secretary of State Hillay Clinton on Monday will meet
rebel representative in Paris, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of
foreign affairs in the National Council.

Hours later the US slapped sanctions against Gaddafi`s
wife, children and his closest advisers.

As pro-Gaddafi forces continued their assault on
rebels in Libya, top US Senators have asked the Obama
administration to take "meaningful actions" against the
country`s regime before it is too late, including through
imposition of a no-fly zone and recognition of the opposition
National Council.

The US should take actions like "the imposition of a
no fly zone, recognition of the Transitional National Council
as the legitimate government of Libya, and provide assistance
to them that will help them prevail in their fight against
(Muammar) Gaddafi," Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman,
said in a joint statement.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the opposition`s
interim governing council, warned of "catastrophe in Libya "
if the US and other Western nations fail to act.

"If there is no no-fly zone imposed on Gadhafi`s
regime, and if his ships are not checked then we will have a
catastrophe in Libya," Abdul-Jalil was quoted as saying in the
media.

He also ruled out the possibility on any kind of a
deal with Gadhafi to ease him out and resolve the crisis.

Meanwhile, stung by the recognition accorded to the
Libyan opposition, the Gaddafi regime decided to "suspend"
diplomatic relations with France.

PTI