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Libya Analyst: Rebels ‘Emboldened’ by Apparent Victory

  • Peter Clottey

A rebel holds his ears as a bomb launched by a Libyan air force jet loyal to Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi explodes in the desert near Brega, March 2, 2011

A rebel holds his ears as a bomb launched by a Libyan air force jet loyal to Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi explodes in the desert near Brega, March 2, 2011

An official of G-Risk, an international risk assessment organization, says Libya’s anti-government protesters have been psychologically emboldened after the group fought off an attempt by forces loyal to embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi to reclaim Brega, an oil town in the eastern part of the country.

Claude Salhani says, despite the anti-government protesters’ victory, the international community is unlikely to provide them with precision bombs or implement a “no-fly zone” that would serve as a deterrent to the forces loyal to Gadhafi.

“It gives them a lot of encouragement to keep going. It’s a major victory for them; it shows that they are on the right track, and it motivates and re-energizes them. They need every little bit they can get to keep going in the face of the ongoing onslaught put up on them by Gadhafi,” said Salhani.

In several interviews, the anti-government protesters have asked the international community for precision bombs, as well as a no-fly zone, to prevent efforts by Gadhafi loyalists to attack or retake parts of the country in their control.

“Before a no-fly zone can be put into place, you will need a U.N. Security Council resolution and that resolution will never be approved by China and or Russia, for the simple reason that they don’t want to set a precedent of giving NATO or the United States and its NATO allies the green light to intervene anywhere in the world and become world policemen. They might be on the receiving end one day and that’s the main reason they will reject that,” said Salhani.

Libyan rebels clashed with pro-government forces in eastern Libya Wednesday. The fighting included ground clashes and airstrikes by Libyan military planes.

Witnesses said pro-Gadhafi forces stormed into Brega on the Gulf of Sirte and briefly seized its oil installations and an airstrip. Opposition fighters say they recaptured the sites. Later, Western media reported loud booms that they linked to at least two bombings from Libyan aircraft.

Salhani says there are strong indications the anti-government protesters would not accept any attempts by the Libyan regime to hold negotiations with them to end the fighting.

“How do you negotiate with a regime like that since it’s out to kill you? He [Gadhafi] said it very clearly that ‘I rule you, or I kill you.’ How do you negotiate with someone like that? I don’t see him sitting down face to face with his opponents. He will kill them, or they will kill him,” he said.

Gadhafi delivered a televised speech Wednesday to supporters in Tripoli saying he could not resign because he holds no political office in a system that, he said, puts all power in the hands of the people.

However, protesters in the rebel-controlled eastern city of Benghazi called for Gadhafi's resignation. They chanted anti-Gadhafi slogans as they burned copies of his “Green Book.” Libya has no formal constitution, but Gadhafi often refers to the publication, which outlines his political and economic philosophy for the country.

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