France is set to push again for consensus on a no-fly zone over Libya at a G8 meeting of foreign ministers. The call comes as forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi force rebels to retreat.
Gadhafi loyalists are gaining ground against the rebels
France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Sunday that France will use this week's meeting of G8 foreign ministers to seek agreement on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. France and Britain have been some of the most vocal supporters of a no-fly zone, which is meant to prevent Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi from bombing his own people as he seeks to crush a rebel uprising against his 41-year rule.
"The situation in Libya will be discussed," Juppe said in a statement.
He added that Paris would be in contact with other European capitals, the Arab League, United Nations Security Council members and the Libyan National Transition Council, which represents the Libyan rebel opposition. France became the first country to recognize the council as Libya's legitimate representatives last week.
France was the first country to recognize the council as Libya's legitimate representatives
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to meet the foreign ministers of the world's eight most industrialized countries on Monday before Juppe hosts a working dinner. The group's full meetings and news conferences are scheduled for Tuesday.
In his statement, Juppe also hailed the 22-nation Arab League's call on Saturday for the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. However veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China have both publicly opposed the idea and the United States is reluctant to appear to be leading the drive to oust Gadhafi.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also welcomed the Arab League's support for a no-fly zone, but reiterated Berlin's reservations about military involvement in the conflict.
"We do not want to get involved in a civil war in North Africa," he told reporters. He also called on the UN Security Council to meet again to discuss Libya.
NATO defense ministers and EU heads of state failed to find consensus in their meetings on the best way to deal with Libya. The EU leaders agreed Gadhafi should resign, but made no mention of a no-fly zone in their closing statement.
Rebels prepare for 'massacre'
As the international community hesitated to intervene, Gadhafi's military forces continue to make take back the gains made by the rebels during the last several weeks. Pro-Gadhafi troops retook the strategic oil town of Brega on Sunday, putting more pressure on the rebels' access to fuel after pushing the insurgents out of Ras Lanuf on Saturday.
"Brega has been cleansed of armed gangs," a Libyan government army source said on state television.
France wants a no-fly zone to stop Gadhafi's airstrikes
Fighters in Misrata, the only rebel-held town outside of the country's east, told reporters they were preparing for the worst after the crushing defeat in Zawiyah.
"We are bracing for a massacre," Mohammad Ahmed, a rebel fighter, told the Reuters news agency. "We know it will happen and Misrata will be like Zawiyah, but we believe in God. We do not have the capabilities to fight Gadhafi and his forces. They have tanks and heavy weapons and we have our belief and trust in God."
There were disputed reports that a government assault on Misrata was slowed Sunday by infighting among the troops after some units refused to attack the city.
UN wants humanitarian assessment
Also on Sunday, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Libya arrived in Tripoli, hoping to gain access to both sides of the conflict in order to assess the situation and provide relief.
"We have asked permission for unimpeded access," Rashid Khalikov told Reuters in an interview. "Our task is to try to negotiate with the government of Libya ... on the arrangements for a proper humanitarian needs assessment in the country.
"The main concern is to find out what's going on, which we don't know," he added. "There are various reports about the humanitarian impact of the heavy fighting."
The New York-based Human Rights Watch warned on Sunday that Libyan security forces were violently cracking down on suspected regime critics in the country's capital.
"Gadhafi and his security forces are brutally suppressing all opposition in Tripoli, including peaceful protests, with lethal force, arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa director.
Author: Holly Fox (AFP, PTI, Reuters)
Editor: Sean Sinico