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Tags: Egypt Watch

Chavez Just Wants to Help



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Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is reportedly eager to help Qaddafi manage a solution to the crisis in Libya. But Qaddafi’s son, Seif, is less enthused. The Times reports: 

 

The government of Libya’s embattled leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, accepted a proposal by President Hugo Chávez to negotiate a solution to the turmoil in Libya, a top aide to Mr. Chávez said Thursday. But confusion emerged after Colonel Qaddafi’s own son reportedly rejected Mr. Chávez’s plan.

The son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, told Sky News in an interview that he valued Venezuela’s friendship but that he knew nothing about Mr. Chávez’s plan and that Libya was capable of solving its problems without foreign intervention.

Details were scant as to what Mr. Chávez’s plan entails, but Andrés Izarra, Venezuela’s information minister, said the Arab League had also expressed interest. “Venezuela will continue its contacts in the Arab world and elsewhere to find formulas for peace in Libya,” Mr. Izarra told Reuters.

They go way back: 

Obama’s Remarks



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Here’s the AP video of Obama’s prepared remarks from today (his response to questions is a few posts down)

All Quiet in Tripoli



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Disturbingly, though protesters appear to be winning in the East and generally outside of the Libyan capital, Qaddafi’s forces appear now to have gained a total victory in Tripoli: 

A state of terror has seized two working class neighborhoods here that just a week ago exploded in revolt, with residents reporting constant surveillance, heavily armed checkpoints and disappearances of those involved in last week’s protest.

While rebel fighters in the country’s east celebrated their defeat of an incursion on Wednesday by hundreds of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s loyalists in the strategic oil town of Brega — and fended off a number of airstrikes on Thursday in industrial areas and around the airport, one resident said — many people here in Tripoli were lying low in an effort to elude the secret police.

Several people in the neighborhoods, Feshloom and Tajura, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of the secret police, said militias loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi are using photographs taken at last week’s protest to track down the young men involved. “They know that there are people who have energy and who are willing to die so they pick them up,” one resident said.

The resident showed reporters cell phone photographs taken at Tripoli Central Hospital of a large wound in the chest of his family member, Nagi Ali el-Nafishi, 56, and they pointed out the blood stain on the cement where he had been shot almost immediately after leaving Friday prayers at a mosque. A doctor who examined him said that the bullet had exploded his heart and lungs, causing him to die of lost blood within minutes.

Several people said at least four people in the neighborhood had been killed that day, including Hisham el-Trabelsi, 19, who they said was shot in the head, and Abdel Basit Ismail, 25, hit by random gunfire while she was calling to a family member in the protest. Neighbors in the Feshloom area report discovering the body near the Abu Slim prison of at least one man, Salem Bashir al-Osta, a 37-year-old teacher who disappeared at a protest last Sunday.

“I think now the people know that if they make any protest now they will be killed, so all the people in Tripoli are waiting for someone to help them from Benghazi,” the neighbor continued, referring to the city in eastern Libya that where the revolt first began and has established a headquarters.

POTUS Authorizes Airlift



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Michael Shear reports: 

 

WASHINGTON — President Obama called again on Thursday for the immediate resignation of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and said he had authorized American military airlifts to help transport refugees fleeing from Libya back to their home countries in the region.

“The U.S. and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said after a White House meeting with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. “Muammar el-Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.”

Mr. Obama said he had directed the Pentagon to prepare for a full range of possible military options in connection with the crisis in Libya. Asked about whether the United States would support sending warplanes over the country to keep the Libyan air force from attacking rebels, creating what is known as a no-flight zone, the president said that was one of the options being considered.

Among America’s NATO allies, France and Britain expressed some support for the idea on Wednesday, while Germany said it was opposed.

Mr. Obama said that in addition to sending military aircraft to ferry Egyptians who have fled to Tunisia to get home, he had authorized the Agency for International Development, an arm of the State Department, to charter civilian aircraft to help refugees return to other countries.

 

ICC Opens Investigation of Qaddafi



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Marlise Simons reports from The Hague:

 

The International Criminal Court has started a formal investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Libyathat will focus on the role of the country’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, several of his sons and members of his inner circle, the chief prosecutor said Thursday.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, said his office had received confirmation that Libyan security forces had fired on peaceful demonstrators, killing hundreds, and that many had been illegally detained in episodes involving at least nine different towns since Feb. 15.

He also said in an interview that many more insiders from the Libyan government had defected than was publicly known, and that the recent information had come from multiple sources. “We cannot name names to protect the families,” he said. “The system appears to be breaking down.”

In a unanimous vote on Saturday, the United Nations Security Council instructed the international prosecutor to investigate the violence in Libya, and it approved a series of other measures including imposing an arms embargo on the country, banning international travel for 16 Libyan leaders and freezing the assets of Colonel Qaddafi and members of his family.

While the criminal investigation and the international sanctions are expected to take weeks to have any effect, they reflected widespread condemnation of the bloody crackdown in Libya against antigovernment protesters.

Obama Speaks on Libya; Urges Defections



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At a joint press conference with Mexican President Philipe Calderon, President Obama finally spoke again on the tumult and demonstrations in Libya. 

He began with the basic and obvious: 

My approach throughout the convulsions that have swept through the Middle East is, number one, no violence against citizens and, number two, we stand for freedom and democracy. And in the situation in Libya what you’ve seen is, one, violence against citizens and the active urging of violence against unarmed citizens by Qaddaffi and, number two, you have seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people. So let me be very unambiguous about this. Colonel Qaddaffi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. It is good for his people. It is the right thing to do. 

He proceeded to something more interesting: 

Those around him have to understand that violence that they perpetrate against innocent civilians will be monitored and they will be held accountable for it. So to the extent that they are making calculations in their own minds about which way history is moving, they should know history is moving against Colonel Qaddaffi. And so their willingness to carry out orders to perpetrate violence is something they will be held accountable for.

I interpret this as basically a call for Egyptian military officers to defect.

He also seemed to defend his record so far against accusations that he has been milquetoast on Lilbya: 

We have already engineered the most decisive actions … freezing $30 billion in assets, imposing sanctions against those in the Libyan government who have been committing those crimes. And as a result of this leadership we have seen broad-based action in the international community.

Obama did not take the possibility of military intervention off the table (as Sec. Robert Gates seemed to yesterday) but suggested that all military action would be taken in consultation with international bodies: 

You are right that this could get bloody. So I want to make sure that the U.S. has full capacity to act rapidly if the situation deteriorated rapidly such that we had a humanitarian crisis on our hands, or if you had a situation where innocent citizens could not escape… But I think it’s very important however that we do this in consultation with the international community. 

He made a philosophical point about the need for the Libyan people to own their own revolution (which could have been taken straight from the NR editorial): 

We did not see anti-American sentiment arising out of that movement in Egypt precisely because they did not feel that we had tried to engineer or impose a particular outcome, but rather, they owned it. The same will happen in Tunisia. 

He argued that actually in terms of raw human suffering it seemed that the refugee problem was actually more of a crisis than those killed by Gaddafi’s army so far: 

We are looking at every option that is out there, in addition to the non-military actions that we’ve taken I want to make sure that the full range of options are available to me. Some of those are humanitarian. The biggest one right now is that we’ve got tens of thousands of people at the border, and they’ve gotta get home. And that’s why we’re using civilian aircraft and military aircraft to help them get there. There could be a situation where Gaddafi was hunkered down in a bunker, but there was a food crisis. 

And he concluded unequivocally: 

Throughout all this we will continue to send a clear message that it’s time for Gaddafi to go. 

U.S. Intervention Unlikely



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This is news from Tuesday, but still relevant. U.S. intervention of any kind — even the imposition of a no-fly zone — looks increasingly unlikely in Libya. Defense Secretary Robert Gates explained why, on Tuesday.

Qaddafi’s Repeat Performance



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Qaddafi’s speech yesterday seems to have been almost a carbon-copy of his first major speech since the demonstrators began: very long (90 minutes), rambling, incoherent, delusional, offering vague concessions, complaining about journalists, blaming the demonstrations on Al Qaeda, while surrounded by Potemkin supporters.

A good account is here

Earlier Today...



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…in Libya, rebel forces repelled an attack from the Lilbyan army, backed by air support, in the eastern city of Brega. But Qaddafi seemed to tighten his grip on Tripoli. Defections in the military have slowed as Qaddafi has reportedly begun taking family members of military leaders hostage. And brutality seems to have temporarily quashed the anti-Qaddafi demonstrations in Tripoli. 

The times provides a precious visual: 

Scenes from Libya, yesterday



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Mubarak’s Prime Minister Resigns



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As the Times reports, Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafiq resigned today. Shafiq, you will remember, was appointed in the final days of Mubarak’s rule, after he fired the rest of his government as a concession on January 29th. Shafiq has since been tainted by his association with Mubarak, and his ousting was one of the main demands of those Egyptians who continue to demonstrate. Other demands, including the end to the emergency law, the release of political prisoners, and the dismantling of the security state, remain unmet. 

Links



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BREAKING: Bombs Dropped on Brega



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Al Jazeera is reporting that at least two bombs have been dropped in Brega, at least one evidently intended for anti-Mubarak protesters in the Libyan city.

Mubarak Out of Egypt



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The former president promised to die in Egypt, but he’s evidently getting treatment in Saudi Arabia. Reuters has the story: 

 

A state-owned Egyptian newspaper said Wednesday that former President Hosni Mubarak was being treated for cancer in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

The interim military government could not be reached for comment. It had imposed a travel ban on Mr. Mubarak, 82, and his family on Monday, but he has not been seen publicly since he was ousted from power on Feb. 11.

The newspaper Al Akhbar quoted “sources informed about the news” as saying that Mr. Mubarak was in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, receiving chemotherapy for colon and pancreatic cancer. It said his family was with him.

On Monday, the public prosecutor issued an order freezing the assets of Mr. Mubarak and his family, and preventing them from leaving Egypt.

USS Ponce and Kearsage now in Mediterranean



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With scattered reports of Qaddafi’s forces making bombing runs on demonstrators, the U.S. has moved the USS Ponce and the USS Kearsage through the Suez canal and positioned in the Mediterranean sea. The Washington Post has the story: 

Two U.S. amphibious warships, the USS Ponce and the USS Kearsarge,passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Wednesday and arrived in the Mediterranean, a canal official said. The officials said the USS Kearsarge is carrying 42 helicopters.

The United States had said on Monday it was moving ships and planes closer to Libya. The arrival of the warships came as forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi moved to recapture control of Brega, a key oil port in eastern Libya, and reverse the tide of an opposition uprising.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the ships, along with an extra 400 Marines, would be ready to give humanitarian relief and perform emergency evacuations from Libya.

The USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce entered accompanied by tugs to secure their passage, the canal official also said. Helicopters can take off from and land on the Kearsarge.

Even as warships got closer to Libya, U.S. defense leaders expressed caution Tuesday about military intervention, warning that enforcement of a no-fly zone would require scarce air assets, domestic political approval and international authorization.

Foreign leaders, and some U.S. officials, have said a no-fly zone is under active consideration, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Pentagon was preparing “a lot of options and contingencies” for President Obama.

But Gates said military measures could have indirect consequences that “need to be considered very carefully.” He suggested any intervention in Libya could drain U.S. forces from the war in Afghanistan and questioned the wisdom of the United States engaging in military action in another Muslim country.

Qaddafi Threatens Air Strikes on Protesters



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From Al Jazeera: 

 

6:06pm

 

Gaddafi troop commander General al-Mahdi al-Arabi has told protesters staging a sit-in in a square in Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, that Gaddafi has threatened an airstike against them if they did not disperse, reports Al Jazeera Arabic.

Qaddafi Denies the Existence of Protesters, Says All Libyans Love Him



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This is surreal. One of the first clips to emerge from Amanpour’s interview with Qaddafi: 

Thousands of Words



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The story in pictures (gruesome ones excised):

Britain to Impose No-Fly Zone?



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Check out the front page of the London Times

From their story: 

Britain and its Nato allies are making plans to send warplanes in to Libya and arm rebels as Western determination hardens to force out Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and prevent a humanitarian disaster. Going further than any world leader, David Cameron said yesterday

A Refugee Emergency



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Even far away from his mercenaries and loyal soldiers, Gaddafi is still managing to cause international and humanitarian crises. Libyan refugees are, to say the least, having a hard time: 

 The United Nations refugee agency says almost 100,000 people have fled Libya’s fighting to neighboring Tunisia and Egypt in what it called a humanitarian emergency.

The numbers seem to have increased over the weekend as armed rebel forces moved closer to a showdown with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and his loyalists who were standing their ground in Tripoli, the capital, and a handful of other places.

More here.

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