Muammar Gaddafi’s forces seized a strategic town in eastern Libya on Tuesday,
opening the way to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi while world powers failed to
agree to push for a no-fly zone.
The UN Security Council was expected to
receive a draft resolution late Tuesday calling for a no-fly zone and stepped-up
sanctions against Gaddafi and his inner circle, council diplomats told Reuters.
The 15-nation body did not intend to vote on the draft Tuesday, as most member
states would need time to consult with their capitals about the no-fly zone, the
The small town of Ajdabiyah was all that stood between
the relentless eastward advance of government troops and Benghazi, and lies on a
road junction from which Gaddafi’s forces could attempt to encircle the city,
In a blow to France’s efforts to use the crisis
to reassert its leadership in international diplomacy, a G8 meeting resisted
French pressure to come out in support of a no-fly zone and made no mention of
the issue in its final communique.
The Libyan crisis dominated the first
meeting of France’s Group of Eight presidency, but Germany and Russia blocked
flight restrictions sought also by Britain, leaving the group with a position
that contained strong words but little substance.
“The Americans are
moving toward the security council, the Russians want more detail on the no-fly
zone and are cautious, but the Germans blocked it completely,” a G8 diplomatic
source said after the talks. “We are in a race against time between building a
politically legitimate operation and taking action.”
The stalemate echoed
a lack of consensus over the issue at the UN Security Council, of which Russia
is a permanent veto-holding member and Germany a temporary member.
Tuesday, Gaddafi dismissed the French-led plans for a no-fly zone.
will fight and win. A situation of that type will only serve to unite the Libyan
people,” he told the Italian daily Il Giornale. French President Nicolas
Sarkozy, he said, had “a mental disorder.”
Gaddafi also said he had been
stunned by Europe’s response to the uprising.
“I was really shocked by
the attitude of my European friends,” he said. “They have damaged and endangered
a series of major accords on security that were in their interests, and the
economic cooperation that we had.”
If western forces attacked Libya, he
said, his forces would join with radical Islamists.
“We will ally
ourselves with al- Qaida and declare holy war,” he said.
struck a bizarre note, even for Gaddafi, given the Libyan leader’s frequent
assertions that al- Qaida is pulling the strings of the insurgency.
town of Ajdabiyah has been cleansed of mercenaries and terrorists linked to the
al-Qaida organization,” state television said Tuesday, referring to the
increasingly embattled rebels.
“The battle is lost. Gaddafi is throwing
everything against us,” said one rebel officer who gave his name as General
Besides the coastal road to Benghazi, there is also a 400-km.
desert road straight to Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, that would cut off
Benghazi. But it was not clear whether Gaddafi’s forces were strong enough to be
divided and if they could operate with such long supply lines.
Bouchuiguir, president of the Libyan League for Human Rights, said in Geneva
that if Gaddafi’s forces attacked Benghazi, a city of 670,000 people, there
would be “a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda.”
planes, tanks and artillery have had few problems picking off lightly armed
insurgents in the open desert, but have faced tougher resistance in towns that
offer some cover for the rebels.
The small oil town of Brega, with a
population of just 4,300, 75 km.
southwest of Ajdabiyah, changed hands
several times in three days of heavy fighting, but also succumbed to superior
government firepower on Tuesday.
“We have lost Brega
We could not face Gaddafi’s forces,” said a rebel, who
identified himself only as Nasser.
In the UN Security Council, veto
powers Russia, China and the United States, along with Portugal, Germany and
South Africa, are among the members that have doubts about the idea of a no-fly
zone for Libya.
As the diplomatic debate drags on, there is now a very
real possibility that by the time world powers agree on a response to the
conflict, Gaddafi's forces may already have won.
NATO has set three
conditions for it to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya: regional support, proof
its help is needed, and a Security Council resolution.
An Arab League
call for a no-fly zone satisfies the first condition, but with access to most of
Libya barred by Gaddafi’s security forces, hard evidence that NATO intervention
is needed to avert atrocities or a humanitarian disaster is scarce.