Libyan Rebel Envoy Meets With Clinton In Paris

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The Libyan rebels who are trying to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power had the ear of the United States Monday night. Mahmoud Jabril, a special envoy from the opposition, sat down in Paris with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The rebel positions appear more vulnerable by the day, as Gadhafi's forces push farther into territory held by the opposition in the east of Libya.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Steve Inskeep is on assignment in Cairo.

The Libyan rebels who are trying to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power had the ear of the United States last night. Mahmoud Jabril, a special envoy from the opposition, sat down in Paris with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The rebel positions appear more vulnerable by the day, as Gadhafi's forces push farther into territory held by the opposition in the east of Libya.

NPR's David Greene joins us from Libya's capital, Tripoli.

David, what do the rebels say they want from the United States?

DAVID GREENE: Hi, Linda.

Well, a French advisor to Mahmoud Jabril, the rebel envoy, says that he was asking for both the no-fly zone that we've heard so much about to prevent Gadhafi's forces from ruling the air, so to speak, and also for a tax on three Libyan airbases.

Our colleague Michele Kelemen is traveling with Secretary Clinton. She says that U.S. officials say that Clinton is expressing willingness to offer more U.S. support, but no real specifics. And there was nothing firm from this meeting on the no-fly zone.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think the prospect for that happening is?

GREENE: There's certainly a lot of international bodies considering it - I mean, the Arab League, NATO. The U.N. Security Council is now where U.S. officials say the debate is going to go. But, you know, it's a divided security council. So it's not clear yet whether this thing is going to happen. And President Obama, of course, weighing both the wisdom and the feasibility of, you know, further military intervention in this region.

WERTHEIMER: Now, this has been a considerable reversal of fortune over the past week. What is the feeling in Tripoli where you are? Is the Gadhafi government sounding more confident now?

GREENE: It really has been a swing. I mean, there was talk not so long ago of the rebels, you know, making their way west and eventually trying to take Tripoli. And now the action has really moved farther and farther away from the east here in Tripoli. Libyan officials seem more confident, a bit more relaxed right now. There are pro-Gadhafi rallies in the main square.

And life, in many ways, has returned to normal here in Tripoli - at least on its face. But you do still see signs of conflict. I mean, we came in through the airport, and there's just an awful scene - a refugee camp, and the situation there worse than I saw it on the Libyan-Tunisian border, Linda.

And also a hotel that they were actually staying in there, there's hardly any staff here. They say we don't have anyone to cook the Moroccan and Tunisian food they used to cook at this hotel, because all of the Moroccans and Tunisians have fled from Libya. And so you do sense the signs of conflict, but also life going on, in some ways.

WERTHEIMER: So how are Libyans getting their news about events in the country?

GREENE: A lot of it is Libyan state television. That's how the government is getting its message across. They've been pounding this message that al-Qaida, al-Qaida is responsible for this uprising, not rebel groups who want a change in power.

And they've also been getting this message to people saying that if you hear otherwise from networks like the BBC or others, it's just not true. in fact, we saw one sign in the main square - in Green Square, it said: BBC, do not spread news that reflect others' wishful thinking.

WERTHEIMER: And how is it to be working there, to be reporting there?

GREENE: It's a very confining environment, still. You know, we just arrived yesterday. What journalists who have been for a while say is that the more relaxed attitude among officials with the government's success has meant a little more freedom of movement for journalists. But you're still are told you have to take a government minder with you to operate anywhere.

We sort of tried to just get to the main square and interview some pro-Gadhafi supporters yesterday and were quickly stopped by police. And they were asking, you know, what are you doing? Who are you talking to? And a lot of the reporting that goes on is done with the government planning these approved trips.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, David.

GREENE: Good talking to you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's David Greene. He is in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

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