Rebels lose key oil port on Libyan coast | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 12.03.2011
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Rebels lose key oil port on Libyan coast

A rebel leader urged the international community to approve a no-fly zone over Libya after Moammar Gadhafi's forces regained control of both the town and the oil refinery in Ras Lanuf.

Anti-Gadhafi protesters

Libyan rebels say they need a no-fly zone

Libyan troops forced rebels to retreat overnight from the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf, pushing the front line eastwards.

Four rebels in the village of Uqayla, on the east-west coastal road between Brega and Ras Lanuf, told news agency AFP on Saturday that they had pulled out of Ras Lanuf after fierce fighting since government forces stormed the town on Thursday.

Rebel leader, General Abdel-Fattah Younis, who defected from Gadhafi's government, vowed a comeback by Sunday "at the latest."

The rebels had maintained a tenuous hold around the oil facilities on Friday after a barrage of attacks by government forces. The assault on Ras Lanuf was a sign the Gadhafi camp had regrouped after it first seemed to be in confusion for much of the uprising that began February 15.

Ras Lanuf is a key oil port 380 miles (615 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Tripoli.

A rebel fighter fires his Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher

Rebels are bracing for a massacre in Misrata

Bracing for a massacre

The last rebel holdout in western Libya was preparing for a government attack on Saturday, with signs rebel morale was faltering after they were defeated or forced to retreat in other parts of the country.

The city of Misrata, about 125 miles east of Tripoli and with a population of around 300,000, has been relatively calm since rebels repelled a major attack by forces loyal to Gadhafi last weekend.

But Zawiyah, the only other town in western Libya where the rebels had openly defied Gadhafi's rule, was recaptured this week, with the government taking foreign journalists for a visit there on Friday to showcase its victory.

"We know that his forces have encircled Misrata from all sides. They are 15 to 20 km away from the center of town with their tanks and heavy weapons," Mohamad Ahmed, a rebel fighter in Misrata told news agency Reuters by telephone.

“We are bracing for a massacre. 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," he said.

Rebels demand no-fly zone

A Libyan volunteer sits on the back of a car

Many Libyans feel abandoned by the world

Ahmed said the rebels felt increasingly abandoned by world powers who have stepped up diplomatic pressure on Gadhafi to quit but stopped short of endorsing air strikes, a no-fly zone or other military-backed means to achieve that goal.

Libyan rebels said their three-week-old insurrection could fail without a no-fly zone.

"The fighters here and the people of Misrata hold the international community responsible for the fall of Zawiyah and for all the deaths that happened,” he said. “Gadhafi is responsible but they are partners in crime."

"They do not care for us," he added. "All they care for is the oil and it seems they are waiting to see who is going to win so that they can deal with them, whether it's Gadhafi or us."

Arab League crisis talks

Arab foreign ministers were set to gather in Cairo on Saturday afternoon for an emergency Arab League meeting to focus on the question of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

"I do not know how nor who will impose this zone. That remains to be seen,” Arab League chief Amr Mussa said in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel. ”The Arab League can also play a role, that is what I will recommend."

The league's green light is seen as key to plans to impose a no-fly zone.

Author: Ben Knight (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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