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Monday Developments In Libya

A Libyan loyalist army tank burns in the town of Ajdabiya on March 26, 2011. i

A Libyan loyalist army tank burns in the town of Ajdabiya on March 26, 2011. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
A Libyan loyalist army tank burns in the town of Ajdabiya on March 26, 2011.

A Libyan loyalist army tank burns in the town of Ajdabiya on March 26, 2011.

PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

NATO has assumed control of the no-fly zone in Libya. Rebels in Libya are advancing west, clashing with fighters loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. (This post will refresh every 30 minutes unless we jump in with breaking news.)

Update at 7:14 p.m. ET. President Obama's Speech:

We're pausing this live blog right here. But Mark is over here live blogging President Obama's address about the military campaign in Libya. The speech is scheduled to start in about 15 minutes at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Update at 7:09 p.m. ET. Italy Trying To Find African Haven For Gadhafi:

The Guardian reports that Italy is trying to work out an exit plan for Gadhafi. The paper reports the United States would not impede Gadhafi from fleeing Libya. They reports:

On the eve of the London conference, Italy offered to broker a ceasefire deal in Libya, involving asylum for Gaddafi in an African country. "Gaddafi must understand that it would be an act of courage to say: 'I understand that I have to go'," said the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini. "We hope that the African Union can find a valid proposal."

Last week, in an interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. was hearing rumblings that Gadhafi was exploring his exit options.

Update at 5:27 p.m. ET. Pentagon Briefing:

In a press briefing, Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs, said the progress by the rebels was tenuous. The AP reports that Gortney said the allied forces were not coordinating attacks with the rebels, but the opposition forces were benefitting from the air strikes.

Update at 4:45 p.m. ET. Advancing, Retreating From Gadhafi's Hometown:

Rebels came within 45 miles of Surt, the tribal homeland of Col. Gadhafi, but very quickly turned back after government forces released a "barrage of tan and artillery fire," reported The New York Times.

This development comes as an American general warns that the gains the opposition has made could be easily undone if allied air support is removed. The Times reports:

"The regime still vastly overmatches opposition forces militarily," Gen. Carter F. Ham, the ranking American in the coalition operation, warned in an e-mail message on Monday. "The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened."

Update at 1:05 p.m. ET. In Misrata, Evidence Of Fierce Fighting:

From the city of Misrata, 130 miles east of Tripoli, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro just reported seeing "burned-out tanks, mangled trucks and other evidence of the fierce fighting and bombardment that this area has been experiencing."

She also said the city is still in the hands of forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Lourdes was in a group of reporters taken to the city by officials of the Gadhafi regime.

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Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, from Misrata

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. NATO Commander Deflects Some Questions:

"NATO's commander for Libya deflected suggestions Monday that international airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi's forces were essentially providing air cover for advancing rebels, insisting that the military alliance's mission is purely designed to protect civilians," the Associated Press reports. It adds that:

"Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard of Canada told a press conference that the alliance was in the process of taking over command from the U.S.-led operation after NATO's 28 members agreed Sunday to the transition. He declined to say how long it would take, saying it was complex and still being coordinated, though officials in Brussels have said it would be a few days."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. More On Misrata:

Reuters says that it's been told by "a rebel spokesman" that Gadhafi's forces gained control of part of the western city of Misrata today. Gadhafi's regime, meanwhile, claimed to have "liberated" the area.

As we reported a short time ago, U.S. Marine units have fired from the air on Gadhafi tanks and armored personnel carriers near Misrata.

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET. U.S. Marines Strike From Air Near Misrata:

NPR's Tom Bowman reports U.S. forces say Marine units carried out air strikes near Misrata, targeting the tanks and armored personnel carriers manned by pro-Gadhafi fighters. Reuters adds British Tornado aircraft hit targets in Sabha, in southern Libya. They included weapons depots used to re-supply Gadhafi loyalists.

Our original post:

NPR's Eric Westervelt is traveling in eastern Libya; today on Morning Edition he described rebels holding Brega, an eastern oil port. Rebels believe the front line of battle is about six miles outside of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown. Overnight, there was a huge celebration in the eastern town of Benghazi, held by the rebels; people mistakenly believed Sirte had fallen to rebel fighters.

Eric has been driving on the western road out of Benghazi. "I passed dozens of destroyed tanks, pieces of artillery, troop carriers and trucks. Really, the highway is littered with his destroyed heavy armor...rebels say that troops that were left, that survived, got into civilian cars and fled westward toward Sirte." Eric is seeing Libyan government uniforms, crates of ammunition dropped by pro-Gadhafi fighter who left in great haste. Rebels are picking up what's been dropped.

Further west, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Tripoli; she tells Morning Edition many shops are closed in the capital and people are hoarding goods. There were nine loud explosions heard over the city and some ineffective anti-aircraft rounds were fired in return.

President Obama will explain his position on the U.S intervention in Libya tonight in a speech in Washington; Mark will cover it live on the Two-Way and Frank will provide analysis on It's All Politics.

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