Libyan rebels vowing “victory or death” advanced toward a major oil terminal yesterday, calling for foreign air strikes to set up a “no-fly” zone after three days of attacks by Muammar Qaddafi’s warplanes.
Eastern-based rebels said they were open to talks only on Qaddafi’s exile or resignation following attacks on civilians that have provoked international condemnation, a raft of arms and economic sanctions and a war crimes probe.
In Tripoli, opponents of Qaddafi prepared to march in the capital after prayers, but the authorities were preventing foreign media from reporting independently on the protests.
“Victory or death ... We will not stop until we liberate all this country,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Libyan Council told supporters of a two-week-old uprising that has shaken Qaddafi’s grip on the North African oil producer.
Rebel volunteers defending the opposition’s expanding grip on a key coast road said a rocket attack by a government warplane just missed a rebel-held eastern military base which houses a big ammunition store in the town of Ajdabiyah.
“We’re going to take it all, Ras Lanuf, Tripoli,” Magdi Mohammed, an army defector, fingering the pin of a grenade said at the rebels’ front-line checkpoint.
Western nations have called for Gaddafi to go and are considering various options including the imposition of a no-fly zone, but are wary about any offensive military involvement to stabilize the world’s 12th-largest oil exporter.
The air attacks have failed to stop the rebels using the coast road to push their front line west of Brega, an oil terminal town 800km east of Tripoli. They said they had driven back troops loyal to Qaddafi to Ras Lanuf, site of another major oil terminal, 600km east of Tripoli.
Amid growing international concern about dwindling food and medical supplies in some rebel-held areas, diplomatic efforts are accelerating to end a conflict that the West fears could stir a mass refugee exodus across the Mediterranean to Europe.
US President Barack Obama said he was concerned a bloody stalemate could develop between Qaddafi and rebel forces but gave no sign of a willingness to intervene militarily.
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