Sunday, March 27, 2011

Libyan Rebels Push West as Coalition Strikes Hit Gadhafi Forces

Libyan rebels pushed farther west Sunday, just one day after seizing two key towns following a week of coalition airstrikes that have forced pro-government troops to retreat.

The rebels said they recaptured the eastern oil port of Brega Saturday, hours after retaking the nearby town of Ajdabiya. They said forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have been driven out of both areas.

Rebels had lost control of Ajdabiya more than a week ago, but a barrage of coalition airstrikes against pro-government forces allowed them to reclaim the town.

Witnesses reported seeing the bodies of more than a dozen government soldiers in Ajdabiya, about 160 kilometers south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Meanwhile, France's military says its warplanes destroyed five Libyan planes and two helicopters in Misrata, a rebel-held town east of Tripoli. Coalition jets also carried out attacks near Tripoli.

Saturday's developments came a day after Libyan officials announced plans to pursue diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. There have been no reports of progress since the announcement.

A delegation representing Mr. Gadhafi said Friday his government is ready to implement a "road map" toward a settlement of the conflict, as envisioned by the African Union. Libyan officials met with envoys Friday from five other African nations in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

African Union members say they are committed to a cease-fire in Libya. They have called for an end to Western-led coalition airstrikes and the naval blockade of Libya.

On Saturday, the United States praised the African Union for convening a conference of world powers Friday in Addis Ababa to discuss the situation in Libya. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the AU has a key role to play in resolving the crisis.

The conference called for a democratic transition period leading to elections in Libya. Libyan officials were barred from the conference when a Libyan rebel group failed to attend.
Post a Comment