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Rebels continue to hold town in western Libya despite attacks

As rebels celebrated the shooting down of a Libyan fighter jet in eastern Libya, fierce fighting continued in the west in a rebel-held town close to the capital Tripoli. The rebels are claiming victory, for now.

Libyan rebels who are part of the forces against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi celebrate their victory in fighting against troops loyal to Gadhafi, in the oil town of Ras Lanuf, eastern Libya, Saturday, March 5, 2011

Libyan rebels celebrate a victory in the oil town of Ras Lanuf

Rebel forces still held control of the city of Zawiyah despite repeated attacks by the Libyan military using tanks and artillery on Saturday. People opposed to Gadhafi's rule in Zawiyah have been fighting government troops for over a week as the uprising inspired by the removal of long-term leaders in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks continues.

Forces loyal to Gadhafi had attacked early Saturday morning, but withdrew to the outskirts of town after meeting rebel resistance. The reprieve proved to be temporary.

"After the morning attack they attacked again. They entered from the west and started shooting rockets at buildings in the square," rebel spokesman Youssef Shagan said. "We are in a good position. ... They will attack again at night, we think."

A doctor inside Zawiyah told Reuters that at least 30 civilians had been killed during the day's fighting and residents feared more bloodshed as Gadhafi's forces were poised to attack again.

"The boys are still in the square. People are locking themselves at home, they fear another attack tonight," a man named Ali told Reuters. "We fear a massacre."

To the east, rebel forces said on Saturday that they had captured Ras Lanouf, the last town on the road to Muammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte. Libya's red, black and green pre-Gadhafi monarchy flag adopted by the rebel forces was flying in the oil port on Saturday after fierce fighting on Friday night.

Gadhafi appoints new UN envoy

The United Nations said late on Friday that the Libyan regime appointed a former foreign minister, Ali Abdussalam Treki, as its new UN envoy, replacing an ambassador who renounced Libya's leadership.

Un Security Council meeting

The UN Security Council has condemned the violence in Libya

"The Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] has received correspondence from the Libyan authorities," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "That correspondence names Dr. Treki as the person they wish to have as the permanent representative of their country."

It's not clear whether Treki, a former president of the UN General Assembly, will be able to take up his new role. To work at the UN headquarters in New York, he must be granted a visa by the US State Department.

"Libya is a recognized member of the United Nations," Nesirky said. "When any country sends a letter naming the permanent representative, that person is the person who will be recognized as the permanent representative."

Demand for suspension of sanctions

Gadhafi's camp has also sought to persuade the UN to lift sanctions imposed on the Libyan leader and his inner circle last week. Foreign Minister Musa Kusa sent a letter to the UN Security Council demanding that sanctions be suspended.

Kusa said only a "modicum" of force had been used against protesters and that the travel ban and asset freeze ordered against Gadhafi should be "suspended until such time as the truth is established."

He also insisted that security forces only acted against "subversive acts" and that "no opposition has been raised to peaceful and unarmed demonstrators."

The letter was the first official reaction by the Libyan regime since protests began. A UN diplomat, who did not want to be named, said the letter showed that Libya "was rattled by the firm and united action taken by the international community."

Human rights groups estimate that around 6,000 people have died since the protests began in Libya on February 15. The UN says more than 1,000 have lost their lives.

Authors: Mark Hallam, Nicole Goebel, Stuart Tiffen (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Kyle James

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