Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi said his forces were set to fight a “decisive battle” yesterday, as Washington added its voice to efforts at the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone.
Qaddafi’s latest comments came after his forces pressed rebels in the west on Wednesday and threatened their eastern bastion of Benghazi, despite calls from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an immediate ceasefire.
“The battle starts today [Wednesday] at Misrata and tomorrow, that will be the decisive battle,” Qaddafi was quoted as saying by state television, referring to Libya’s third city, which has a population of half a million.
Qaddafi urged his audience “not to leave Misrata hostage in the hands of a handful of madmen.”
On Tuesday, Libyan state television said the army would soon move against Benghazi, and on Wednesday, Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam predicted that everything would be over in 48 hours.
A rebel spokesman in Misrata, which lies 150km from the capital, Tripoli, said on Wednesday that opposition forces had beaten back an attack by Qaddafi loyalists.
In the East, witnesses in Ajdabiya, the gateway to Benghazi, said fighting was still under way there. Government sources continued to insist that it had fallen on Tuesday.
A doctor said by telephone that fighting was still raging on Wednesday in and around Ajdabiya, which also guards the road to Tobruk and the Egyptian border in the rebel-held east.
As talks resumed in the divided UN Security Council, Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky said the secretary general was “gravely concerned” about signs that Qaddafi was preparing to attack Benghazi.
“A campaign to bombard such an urban center would massively place civilian lives at risk,” he said.
“The secretary general is urging all parties in this conflict to accept an immediate ceasefire,” he added.
The Red Cross announced on Wednesday that it was moving its staff in Benghazi to Tobruk until security improved, handing food and other relief provisions to the local Red Crescent society.
In Cairo on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said: “We want to do what we can to protect innocent Libyans against the marauders let loose by the Qaddafi regime.”
However, she stopped short of explicitly backing a no-fly zone, saying it was one of several options under consideration.
She did however say that the Arab League’s endorsement of action against one of its own members, including a no-fly zone, had made an impact on the views of the major powers on the Security Council.
Hours later at the UN, the US position appeared to have hardened against Qaddafi.
Washington joined Britain and France in pressing for a Security Council vote scheduled for yesterday on a no-fly zone to halt Qaddafi’s attacks.
US Ambassador to the UN --Susan Rice said that action might have to “go beyond a no-fly zone at this point, as the situation on the ground has evolved, and as a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk.”
Britain, France and Lebanon, on behalf of the Arab League, have been seeking to overcome resistance to a no-fly zone.
“What we want to do is move as fast as possible and we will be stressing the urgency of the need for action this morning,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said in New York.
French President Nicolas -Sarkozy, in a letter to the leaders of the other countries on the 15-nation council, said: “Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya. It is now a matter of days, if not hours.”
However, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said “we have no wish to and we cannot take sides in a north African civil war.”
A no-fly zone would amount to military action and ground forces could be needed as a follow-up if it failed, he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has requested more information from Arab states on how a no-fly zone would be policed.
China, which like Russia wields a veto on the Security Council, has also expressed reservations about any intervention.
The two-part draft resolution calls for a no-fly zone and toughened sanctions against the Qaddafi regime, according to UN diplomats.
Deputy Libyan UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi warned that “in the coming hours we will see a real genocide if the international community does not act quickly.”
Dabbashi, who defected from the Qaddafi regime, said “about five” Arab states were ready to help police the no-fly zone if it were adopted.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after