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War in Libya – Libya and World – News (March to July 2011)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Obama praises mission, Gaddafi forces pushed out of town

Libya opposition fighters capture strategic town

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Air strikes on Ajdabiyah on Friday afternoon seem to have been decisive for rebels to recapture the town 

Benghazi, LIBYA (AlArabiya.net, Agencies)

Libyan opposition fighter backed by allied air strikes recaptured the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiyah on Saturday, pushing out Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. A Reuters correspondent saw half a dozen wrecked tanks near the eastern entrance to the town and the ground strewn with empty shell casings. There were also signs of heavy fighting at the western gate, the last part of the town taken from government troops. “Everything was destroyed last night by our forces,” said opposition fighter Sarhag Agouri. Witnesses and fighters said the whole town was in the opposition’s hands by late morning. Capturing Ajdabiyah is a big morale boost for the opposition fighters after two weeks spent on the back foot.

Gaddafi’s better-armed forces halted an early opposition fighters’ advance near the major oil export terminal of Ras Lanuf and pushed them back to their stronghold of Benghazi until Western powers struck Gaddafi’s positions from the sea and air.

Air strikes on Ajdabiyah on Friday afternoon seem to have been decisive.

The African Union said it was planning to facilitate talks to help end the war, but NATO said its operation could last three months, and France said the conflict would not end soon.

In Washington, a U.S. military spokeswoman said the coalition fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew 153 air sorties in the past 24 hours attacking Gaddafi’s artillery, mechanized forces and command and control infrastructure.

Explosions also rocked an eastern suburb of Tripoli early Saturday signaling possible new strikes by warplanes or missiles, and a witness said a military radar site was in flames on the eighth day of coalition air strikes.

Western governments hope the raids will shift the balance of power in favor of the Arab world’s most violent popular revolt.

French, U.S. and British air strikes against the regime of longtime Libyan leader Gaddafi began a week ago under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorised “all necessary means” to protect civilians and set up a no-fly zone over the north African country.

   We’ve received reports today that he has taken to arming   what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition

  US Vice Admiral William Gortney

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Pressure taking its toll

U.S. officials said the relentless pressure on Gaddafi and his allies was beginning to take its toll.

“We’ve received reports today that he has taken to arming what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition,” said U.S. Vice Admiral William Gortney.

But as the United States said Gaddafi’s ability to command and sustain his forces was diminishing, Libyan state TV said the “brother leader” had promoted all members of his armed forces and police “for their heroic and courageous fight against the crusader, colonialist assault”, without giving further details.

At African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, AU commission chairman Jean Ping said the organization was planning to facilitate peace talks in a process that should end with democratic elections.

It was the first statement by the AU, which had rejected any form of foreign intervention in the Libya crisis, since the U.N. Security Council imposed a no-fly zone last week and air strikes began on Libyan military targets.

   Make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians-innocent men, women and children-have been saved.  

US President Barack Obama

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Obama praises mission

U.S. President Barack Obama told Americans that the military mission in Libya is clear, focused and limited, and that it has already saved “countless” civilian lives.

Under increasing pressure to explain his strategy, Obama gave his most detailed review of the conflict so far, and insisted American national interests were behind his decision to order U.S. forces into U.N.-mandated combat.

“Make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians-innocent men, women and children-have been saved,” Obama said in his weekly radio and online address.

The president said a week into the operation that when innocent people were brutalized, by a leader like Gaddafi threatening a “bloodbath” and when nations were prepared to respond together “it’s in our national interest to act.”

Obama said Libya’s air defenses have been disabled, Gaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing and in places like the city of Benghazi, an opposition stronghold where Gaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back.

He aid the role of U.S. forces has been limited in what he described as a “broad, international effort.” He stressed again that no U.S. ground forces would go into Libya.

   We do not want outside forces. We won’t need them. We will win the first battle thanks to you. We will win the next battle through our own means.

  Rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril 

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Fighters says “outside forces” can lave

Libya’s opposition fighters meanwhile thanked France for its role in the Western-led military blitz against the Gaddafi regime but said “outside forces” could now leave the country, in a letter published Saturday.

“In the middle of the night, your planes destroyed tanks that were set to crush Benghazi. … The Libyan people see you as liberators. Its recognition will be eternal,” wrote rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril in the letter addressed to President Nicolas Sarkozy, published by the French daily Le Figaro.

However, Jibril added: “We do not want outside forces. We won’t need them. We will win the first battle thanks to you. We will win the next battle through our own means.”

France was the first country to recognise the rebels’ “national council” as the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people” on March 10.

The opposition fighters, emboldened by revolutions in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt that ousted strongmen Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, launched their drive to topple Kadhafi, in power for 41 years, on February 15.

“The Libyan people, as well as neighbouring friends, notably our Tunisian and Egyptian brothers, see in the help you have brought a great gesture towards the Arab world,” Jibril wrote.

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Al Arabiya.

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