Libyan rebels edge westwards out of Misrata

MISRATA, Libya Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:18pm EDT

1 of 16. A Libyan rebel fighter distributes pizzas to his comrades inside a mosque taken from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, after rebels pushed several kilometres in the direction of Zlitan, west of the rebel-held port city of Misrata, June 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

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MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels edged slowly beyond their western stronghold of Misrata toward Tripoli, but faced supply shortages after shelling from Muammar Gaddafi forces hit a key refinery in the city.

A Reuters photographer in Misrata joined rebel units as they pushed their front several kilometers (miles) west to the outskirts of Zlitan, a neighboring town controlled by Gaddafi's forces.

Any fighting over Zlitan would bring the rebellion closer to the capital Tripoli, the Libyan leader's stronghold which lies 200 km (124 miles) west of Misrata.

A doctor in a field hospital to the west of Libya's third largest city said two rebels had been killed and a dozen wounded after the two sides traded heavy artillery fire.

Rebels from Misrata say tribal sensitivities prevent them from attacking Zlitan, and they are instead waiting for local inhabitants to rise up.

Late Monday, six rockets hit generators at the refinery near Misrata port leaving them heavily damaged. An engineer on site said it was unclear how long it would take to repair.

The fighting east of Tripoli came during a lull in NATO bombardment of the Libyan capital. State television reported the alliance had bombarded targets in Al Jufrah in the center of the country.

A rebel spokesman in Zintan, in the rebel-held Western Mountains range southwest of Tripoli, said the town had been quiet after being subjected to its heaviest bombardment by pro-Gaddafi forces in several weeks Sunday.

"Today has been the quietest day for Zintan in three months, although we started to hear in the evening loud blasts coming from the east." he said. "We buried (on Monday) the 10 martyrs who were killed after Sunday's clashes."


Fighting flared at the weekend in the town of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital -- clashes the rebel leadership said were a sign that the momentum in the four-month-old conflict was shifting their way.

But Monday, a rebel spokesman in Zawiyah who had been giving accounts of the fighting was no longer reachable by telephone. The main highway west from Tripoli, which had been closed because of the fighting, appeared to have re-opened.

Gaddafi has said the rebels are criminals and al Qaeda militants. He has described the NATO military intervention as an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya's oil.

Western governments say they believe it is only a matter of time before Gaddafi's 41-year rule ends under the weight of NATO military intervention, sanctions and defections.

NATO member Germany became the latest country to recognize the rebel council based in the second city of Benghazi as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, giving heavyweight support to leaders poised to run the country if Gaddafi falls.

France, Qatar, Italy and the United Arab Emirates have already recognized the Transitional National Council.

"We share the same goal -- Libya without Gaddafi," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Benghazi.

In the latest diplomatic shuffling to add pressure on Gaddafi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged African leaders to abandon him.

Gaddafi has styled himself the African "king of kings" and over the years won support from many African states in exchange for financial help and generous gifts. Most countries on the continent have been lukewarm toward the rebels.

"Your words and your actions could make the difference... (in ending this situation) ...and allowing the people of Libya to get to work writing a constitution and rebuilding their country," Clinton said in a speech to the African Union in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

(Additional reporting by Souhail Karam in Rabat; writing by John Irish; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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Comments (2)
SportsCar39 wrote:
Wow! Germany has recognized the Libyan Rebels as the true Government of Libya. Now if Germany could only recognizes NATO as friends and stand by them in not only good times, but also in War. During the Cold War NATO stood by West Germany when Russia wanted to make West & East Germany a suburb of the Soviet Union. Because NATO and the U.S. was willing to use Nuclear Weapons in order to prevent Russia from taking West Germany away from the alllies in the Cold War, Today Germany is one nation after all the problem they caused in the Twentieth Century.

Jun 13, 2011 5:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
robert1234 wrote:
This is about two things. Kadaffi had threatened to nationalize the oil companies if they didn’t share part of the out-sized profits with their employees and he helped broker the PLO single-government agreement. Both things pissed off the U.S. and it’s puppets, Germany, etc. went along with it. So, again, it’s oil and Israel that has brought about another U.S. war.

Jun 13, 2011 8:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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