Pro-Gaddafi forces close in on rebel city Zawiyah

Fighting forces shutdown of one of Libya's biggest oil refineries; Gaddafi says Western powers conspire to control Libyan oil fields; Pentagon says US is considering military options on Libya.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
March 9, 2011 11:08
2 minute read.
Man holds a picture of Gaddafi from a bank window.

man holds pic of Gaddafi_311. (photo credit: Chris Helgren / Reuters)

Heavy fighting has forced a shutdown of one of Libya's biggest refineries in the flashpoint town of Zawiyah 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, a refinery official said on Wednesday.

"Heavy weapons have been fired nearby and we can't run the refinery under these conditions," the official told Reuters.

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Meanwhile, the tanks of pro-Gaddafi forces were closing in on the rebel-held main square of the  Zawiyah, a rebel fighter said.

The fighter, named Ibrahim, said forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were in control of the main road and the suburbs of Zawiyah.

Rebel forces still controlled the square and the enemy was about 1,500 metres (yards) away, he said.

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Ibrahim said there were army snipers on top of most of the buildings, shooting whoever dared to leave their homes.



He said half the city was destroyed by air attacks.

"There are many dead people and they can't even bury them. Zawiyah is deserted. There's nobody on the streets. No animals, not even birds in the sky," he said.

Rebels had killed a high-ranking cousin of Gaddafi in fighting earlier in the week, and "that's why he bombed the city. They wanted to retrieve the body and they did," Ibrahim said.

He said about 60 rebel fighters had gone to attack an army base on Tuesday about 20 kms (12 miles) from Zawiyah.

"None of them has returned and we don't know if they're dead or alive. We haven't heard from them," he said.

The Libyan people will take up arms against Western powers if they seek to enforce a no-fly zone in their country's airspace, Muammar Gaddafi said in an interview with Turkish state-run television.

"If they take such a decision it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil," Gaddafi said in the interview by broadcast by TRT news channel on Wednesday.

"Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them," Gaddafi said. The interview was conducted in Arabic and aired with Turkish subtitles.

Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon said the US is still looking at a full range of military options on Libya, a day before NATO defense ministers gather for a meeting likely to expand on Western nations' deliberations about a no-fly zone.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who concluded a visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday, was expected to discuss Libya with counterparts from other NATO nations during the regular ministerial meeting beginning on Thursday.

"We are preparing, as we've made clear for days and days now, a range of military options for the president, including a no-fly zone and each of those options will also spell out the potential consequences of each course of action," Morrell said.


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