International

Libyan Rebels Losing Ground

Libyan protesters demonstrate in the rebel-controlled eastern town of Benghazi on March 13, 2011. i i

hide captionLibyan protesters demonstrate in the rebel-controlled eastern town of Benghazi on March 13, 2011.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Libyan protesters demonstrate in the rebel-controlled eastern town of Benghazi on March 13, 2011.

Libyan protesters demonstrate in the rebel-controlled eastern town of Benghazi on March 13, 2011.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi took over Zwara, near the Tunisian border. The AP says they used mortars and tanks to crush rebels in outskirts of the town of about 45,000. The New York Times says Gadhafi is giving rebels a choice: "Surrender or Flee".

NPR's David Greene is in Tripoli - speaking with Morning Edition, he reports there's a big swing in fortune in the Libyan capital, with pro-Gadhafi rallies held downtown and Libyan government officials who appear more relaxed.

The Arab League and the rebels asked the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, to reduce Gadhafi's ability to attack the insurgents. Reuters says foreign ministers from the Group of Eight countries don't seem to be in any hurry to act; the and may release a final statement only urging the UN to increase sanctions on Gadhafi.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Clinton, who attended the G-8 meeting. She tells NPR Newscasts the secretary met privately with Libyan rebels and 'understands' them better but gave no U.S. commitment on supporting a no-fly zone.

Update at 5:10 p.m. ET: Britain, France and Lebanon circulated a draft resolution at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, today. The resolution would put forth a no-fly zone above Libya. Reuters reports that Germany, which has expressed qualms over the past few days, is still not on board:

Germany's U.N. ambassador said on Tuesday some key questions about a proposed no-fly zone in a draft Security Council resolution on Libya remained unanswered...

"We raised questions we felt are still not fully answered, as to the Arab participation in such a measure, as to whether the implementation of such a zone would run counter to the intention of the Arab League itself, the Arab League having pointed out that there should be no foreign intervention," [Peter] Wittig said.

Update at 3:30 p.m. ET: Reuters and Britain's The Telegraph report that pro-Gadhafi forces have taken over Ajdabiyah, the last town standing between government forces and the city of Benghazi, which has been the home base of the rebellion. Reuters reports:

"The town of Ajdabiyah has been cleansed of mercenaries and terrorists linked to the al Qaeda organization," state television said, referring to the increasingly embattled rebels fighting to end Gaddafi's 41 years of absolute power.

Government jets opened up with rocket fire on a rebel checkpoint at the western entrance to Ajdabiyah, then unleashed a rolling artillery barrage on the town and a nearby arms dump, following the same pattern of attack that has pushed back rebels more than 100 miles in a week-long counter-offensive.

Reuters also talked to one rebel, who questioned the future of the uprising. "The battle is lost. Gaddafi is throwing everything against us," said a rebel officer, who told Reuters his name was General Suleiman.

Update at 2:34 p.m. ET: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the United States was looking to support the opposition in Libya. Reuters reports:

"We understand the urgency of this. And therefore we are upping our humanitarian assistance. We are looking for ways to support the opposition," said Clinton, speaking at a news conference during a visit to Cairo.

"But we believe that this must be an international effort and that there (have) to be decisions made in the (U.N.)Security Council in order for any of these steps to go forward," she said.

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