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Airstrikes continue over Libya as rebels gain ground

Saturday March 26, 2011 06:48:19 PM, DPA

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Cairo/Tripoli: Libyan rebels Saturday recaptured the key eastern town of Ajdabiya, as airstrikes by coalition forces imposing a no-fly zone over the conflict-ridden country continued. People were celebrating in Ajdabiya after opposition forces seized control, following days of fierce fighting with Muammar Gaddafi's forces, broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported.

Ajdabiya is located 160 km from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on the frontline between the Libyan leader's forces and the rebel-controlled eastern part of Libya.

Rebels were reportedly on their way to the key oil port town of al-Burayqa, where Gaddafi forces were retreating, the news channel reported citing witnesses.

"The airstrikes provide air cover for the rebels to march south to Adjdabiya. This is illegal," Libyan government spokesman Ibrahim Mousa said late Friday, referring to action by the international coalition.

Loud explosions were heard in the capital as airstrikes continued early Saturday. A Libyan military spokesman said the attacks targeting military and civilian sites in western Tripoli.

Since March 19, a US-led coalition that includes Britain and France has been taking out Libyan air defences and ground forces in order to prevent attacks on civilians.

US President Barack Obama said Saturday the mission in Libya was succeeding and said that Gaddafi must be held responsible for his actions.

"We're succeeding in our mission," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "We've taken out Libya's air defences. Gaddafi's forces are no longer advancing across Libya."

Obama also praised the international community for its involvement, after NATO agreed to take over the enforcement of the no-fly zone. He vowed that US involvement would remain limited and that no ground forces would be sent into Libya.

The Washington Post reported that the US and other Western nations are considering supplying the Libyan rebels with weapons.

The continuing ground battles between rebels and Gaddafi's forces prompted the African Union (AU) Friday to call for a transitional period that would lead to democratic elections in Libya. The AU and African states such as South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe have called for an end to coalition airstrikes.

Meanwhile, regional daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported Saturday that Gaddafi is relying on unnamed Western "friends" to find a "dignified solution" to the conflict that is gripping the North African country.

The paper said Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, has left the country to work out an "urgent plan" to prevent a further deterioration of the political and military situation.

A high-level Libyan delegation headed by parliament speaker Muhammad Abul-Qasim Al-Zawi arrived in Tunisia earlier and is now heading to a secret destination for further talks, the paper added.








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