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Libyan rebels ask foreign help

world Updated: Mar 02, 2011 23:38 IST

Rebel leaders in eastern Libya called on Tuesday for international military intervention to help topple Muammar Gaddafi, as the realization dawned that people power alone may not be enough to dislodge their nation’s autocratic leader from his last remaining strongholds.

Agency reports say Gaddafi’s forces have recaptured the oil facilities at Brega, in central Libya, and the town of Gharyan.

The rebels said they do not want ground forces, but they are increasingly coming around to the view that help in the form of a no-fly zone, as well as airstrikes and supplies of weaponry, will be necessary to ensure Gaddafi’s fall.

US military officials said the rebels have not yet asked them for help, and on Tuesday they played down the likelihood of the United States setting up a no-fly zone.

But in the eastern city of Benghazi, the center of the resistance, some members of the committee formed to run the city said they expected to issue a formal request to the international community on Wednesday for military assistance.

And in Misurata, a town about 120 miles east of Tripoli that is besieged by Gaddafi’s militias, a spokesman for the newly formed committees set up to run that town said residents also want foreign help against Gaddafi.

“A no-fly zone would limit his movements, his ability to move mercenaries from south to north and to recruit mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa,” said a member of the media committee, Saadoun.

Saadoun said the people of Misurata have enough weapons captured from army units that defected to defend the town center, but not enough to dislodge the militias from the outskirts.

In another sign that Gaddafi’s forces may be recovering from the initial shock of the sudden uprising, the strategic mountaintop town of Gharyan, overlooking Tripoli, has been recaptured by government loyalists after falling to the opposition Friday.

Zawiyah, another town nominally in rebel hands but ringed by Gaddafi loyalists, repelled an attack by government forces on Monday.

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