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G8 Split On No-Fly Zone As Gaddafi Fights Back


Lebanon, backed by Britain, has tabled a United Nations resolution for a no-fly zone to be imposed over Libya to protect people from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

Rebels fighting the dictator’s troops have called for the no-fly zone because they are being bombarded by air strikes.

Members of the 15-nation Security Council will now consult with officials in their own countries about the resolution.

Russia and Germany have already expressed misgivings about it.

The resolution deals with a no-fly zone, action on mercenaries fighting for Col Gaddafi, tightening existing sanctions like arms embargo, and adding more people to travel bans and asset freezing.

The next UN meeting is due on Wednesday.

Earlier, G8 nations warned the Libyan leader faces “dire consequences” if he ignores the basic rights of his people but stopped short of recommending a no-fly zone.

The final communique from foreign ministers meeting in Paris called on the UN Security Council to increase pressure on Gaddafi to leave, including economic measures.

Yet it made no mention of an Arab League call for a no-fly zone to be imposed over the north African country.

At a news conference, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the Arab League needed to provide more concrete detail about its proposal.

France had said it expected a UN resolution this week offering support for Libyan rebels.

In Libya, state TV reported that pro-Gaddafi forces were “in total control” of the eastern town of Ajdabiyah, though that was disputed by Sky correspondent Emma Hurd who had just come from the area.

Col Gaddafi’s supporters launched air strikes on the town for the second day running as they continued their advance toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Heavy anti-aircraft fire and artillery fire has been heard in Benghazi, according to a report.

Ajdabiyah is 35 miles (70 km) east of the key port city of Brega, where both the rebels and Col Gaddafi’s forces have claimed to be in control.

Brega is crucial to the battle for Libya’s oil centres and is a key crossroads for rebel supply lines.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins a visit to Libya’s neighbours, Egypt and Tunisia, some observers were saying that a no-fly zone would do little to halt Col Gaddafi’s forces because at decisive moments they have been beating the rebels on the ground, not from the air.

After losing control of large parts of his oil-exporting country last month to an uprising against his 41-year rule, Col Gaddafi has regained momentum.

His forces have recovered two oil terminals in the east and are pushing on toward Benghazi.

US national intelligence director James Clapper has predicted that eventually, because of its military strength, “the regime will prevail”.

Explore the unrest spreading in the Middle East

The advance in the east has so far been relatively straightforward: Col Gaddafi’s forces have been fighting in a bleak strip of desert coastline where they can use artillery and aircraft to scatter the disorganised rebel fighters.

But when they reach Benghazi, Col Gaddafi’s superior firepower is likely to be blunted by the kind of urban warfare waged first in the city of Zawiyah, just to the west of Tripoli, and now in Misratah, 130 miles (200km) east of the capital.

:: US citizens are being advised to avoid travelling to Bahrain due to the potential for ongoing political and civil unrest there.

The US state department also authorised the voluntary departure of family members of US embassy staff, and advised other Americans currently in Bahrain to consider leaving.

Bahrain has been swept up in the wave of protests that have arisen in the Arab world since December. On Monday, a military force from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations moved into Bahrain to shore up its Sunni Muslim rulers in the face of escalating Shi’ite-led protests.

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