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Libya on the ground - April 1

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Libyan rebels offer cease-fire. Does Qaddafi have the upper hand?

Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor
Col. Muammar Qaddafi has gained the upper hand on the Libyan battlefield, even as British and other Western officials maintain that his regime is "crumbling" from the inside.

Benefiting from a change in tactics, Colonel Qaddafi's forces have made significant gains against rebels with more nimble units that are harder for Western allies to target by air. Rebels, now lacking the curtain of airstrikes that paved their rapid westward advance last weekend, appear to be relinquishing their determination to battle Qaddafi's forces all the way to Tripoli.

An opposition leader said today that rebel forces would agree to a cease-fire if the Libyan leader pulled his loyalists out of cities and allowed peaceful protests.
(1 April 2011)



Libya rebels pen oil deal with Qatar

Marc Burleigh, AFP
Libyan rebels have penned a deal with Qatar to market their crude oil abroad in exchange for food, medicine and -- it hopes -- weapons, a top official in the transitional government said on Friday.
(1 April 2011)



Gaddafi regime admits attempts to talk to west

Peter Beaumont, Guardian/UK
The regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has initiated a concerted effort to open lines of communication with western governments in an attempt to bring the conflict in the country to an end.

As fighting continues in Libya, the country's former prime minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi told Channel 4: "We are trying to talk to the British, the French and the Americans to stop the killing of people. We are trying to find a mutual solution."

Obeidi's indication of the increased effort to make contact with western governments came as opposition leaders in the rebels' de facto capital of Benghazi laid out their own conditions for a ceasefire.

The initiatives on both sides appear to reflect an emerging stalemate between the forces and a growing war-weariness.
(1 April 2011)



Exposed: The US-Saudi Libya deal

Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
You invade Bahrain. We take out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. This, in short, is the essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of Saud. Two diplomatic sources at the United Nations independently confirmed that Washington, via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement in their neighbor in exchange for a "yes" vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya - the main rationale that led to United Nations Security Council resolution 1973.

The revelation came from two different diplomats, a European and a member of the BRIC group, and was made separately to a US scholar and Asia Times Online...

As Asia Times Online has reported, a full Arab League endorsement of a no-fly zone is a myth. Of the 22 full members, only 11 were present at the voting. Six of them were Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, the US-supported club of Gulf kingdoms/sheikhdoms, of which Saudi Arabia is the top dog. Syria and Algeria were against it. Saudi Arabia only had to "seduce" three other members to get the vote.

Translation: only nine out of 22 members of the Arab League voted for the no-fly zone. The vote was essentially a House of Saud-led operation, with Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa keen to polish his CV with Washington with an eye to become the next Egyptian President.

Thus, in the beginning, there was the great 2011 Arab revolt. Then, inexorably, came the US-Saudi counter-revolution.
(2 April 2011)



Undisciplined Libyan rebels no match for Gaddafi's forces

Chris McGreal, Guardian/UK
If there's an ammunition shortage, no one has told Khalif Saed. He was firing off a large machine gun welded to the back of a pick up truck, sending the contents of the heavy belt of bullets darting through the weapon and in to an empty sky.

It's a regular enough occurrence on the open desert road along which Libya's conflict has swung back and forth through this month. Sometimes the stream of fire is celebratory, as earlier this week when it was falsely claimed that Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte had fallen.

In recent days it seems to be more out of frustration as the rebels were forced back in the face of Gaddafi's attack. What it was not was aimed at was the enemy.

Asked why he was shooting when the revolution's military leadership has appealed for discipline and its fighters not to waste ammunition, Saed said simply: "It's my gun."

It isn't. He concedes that he seized it from a military base in Benghazi as Gaddafi's forces fled at the beginning of the revolution. But it says much about the state of the loosely organised rebel militia which foreign governments are now considering arming.
(30 March 2011)



On Libya’s Revolutionary Road

Robert F. Worth, New York Times
On the evening of Feb. 8, Khalid Saih found himself in the back of a speeding car on the outskirts of Tripoli. It was not by choice. Saih, a lanky 36-year-old lawyer, was part of a small group of Libyan activists who were openly calling for a new constitution and more civil rights. After months of harassment by the police, he and three fellow lawyers were ordered to report to the Interior Ministry in Tripoli. From there, with no warning, they were bundled into a car and told they would be meeting the Leader.

The men were terrified. None had met Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi before. All of them had friends or relatives who had been tortured or murdered in his prisons. As they rode, they made contact with friends back in their hometown, Benghazi, to report their location, in case they were imprisoned or killed. To calm their nerves, they recited a prayer that is invoked in situations of great danger:

God is great,
God the dearest of all Creation,
God is greater than what I fear,
I take refuge in God,
There is no protection but he from the evil servant and his soldiers,
God be my protector from the bulk of their evil.

After a half-hour they arrived at a gated compound with a sign marked in Arabic “Equestrian Club of Abu Sitteh.” There were uniformed guards with guns and layers of barbed wire. The car stopped, and a man took the lawyers’ cellphones and escorted them to a large Bedouin-style tent, illuminated by an enormous bonfire in front. They went in and sat down at a long, dimly lighted table. An attendant brought them glasses of fresh camel’s milk. Then Qaddafi entered, wearing brown Bedouin robes and a fur hat with flaps hanging down the sides.
(30 March 2011)
Spell-binding narratives of rebels against the Qaddafi regime. -BA

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