Politics & Policy

Rebels in Retreat From Key City of Brega

More and more, it looks like no swift victory, if any, for rebels against Qaddafi: 


BREGA, Libya — Forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi battered rebel fighters on the road outside this strategic oil town on Tuesday with rocket fire, mortars and artillery, driving them many miles to the north and leaving them in disarray

A day after a senior Libyan rebel leader had criticized NATO for “a delay in reacting and lack of response to what’s going on on the ground,” there was still no sign of the air power that two weeks ago seemed to have the loyalist forces reeling toward the Qaddafi stronghold of Surt, more than 100 miles to the west.

The official, Ali al-Essawi, the foreign policy director of the Transitional National Council, the rebels’ coordinating group, said that the problems began after NATO took charge of the air campaign from the United States, Britain and France, and that he now foresaw a drawn-out battle. “They took the command; they will make it long,” he said in an interview in Rome.

While NATO seemingly had no presence on the battlefield here, a NATO official, Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm, said at a news briefing that Western airstrikes had destroyed about 30 percent of Colonel Qaddafi’s military power, Reuters reported.

In a lone bright spot for the rebel government, a tanker capable of carrying a million barrels of oil was headed to a port near the city of Tobruk near the Egyptian border, The Associated Press reported. With oil prices pushing past $100 a barrel, the cargo could exceed $100 million in value.

Libyan government officials continued to talk about a negotiated solution to the crisis in which the country would “transition” to democratic rule while ultimate power remained with Colonel Qaddafi or his sons. To do otherwise, said Musa Ibrahim, the government spokesman, was to risk a “dangerous” power vacuum along the lines of Iraq after the fall ofSaddam Hussein.

In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Tuesday, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi appeared to spell out his proposal for a transition to democracy, suggesting that his father assume a primarily ceremonial role, “like the Queen of England.”


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