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Libyan Fighters Prepare to Attack Gadhafi Stronghold

Pro-NTC fighters waiting for action near the Gadhafi-held town of Bani Walid, September 4, 2011.

Pro-NTC fighters waiting for action near the Gadhafi-held town of Bani Walid, September 4, 2011.

Libyan provisional authority fighters have massed for an attack on one of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi's last remaining strongholds, as negotiations aimed at persuading loyalists to peacefully surrender the desert town of Bani Walid broke down.

A negotiator for the National Transitional Council, Abdullah Kanshil, said Sunday that talks failed when pro-Gadhafi tribal elders rejected an offer to have medical supplies brought into Bani Walid on the condition that authority fighters simultaneously enter the town. No comment was available from the other side.

VOA's Elizabeth Arrott is near Bani Walid and has this report

The city - about 170 kilometers southeast of the capital, Tripoli - is said to be desperately short of ambulances, doctors and supplies, including water and food.

Bani Walid is dominated by Libya's largest tribe, the Warfalla, which helped anchor Mr. Gadhafi's nearly 42-year rule. Many of the anti-Gadhafi fighters encircling the town are also Warfalla members.

The Road to Bani Walid, Libya

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, Libya's interim government announced plans to integrate 3,000 of its fighters into the national police force and find other jobs for the rest. NTC officials said the scheme also would be open to those who fought for Mr. Gadhafi.

In Italy Sunday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini warned against a full-scale purging of Gadhafi-era military officials, urging Libya and the international community not to repeat the same "big mistake" it did in Iraq. The United States and Iraq dismantled the army there after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, putting many Iraqis on the streets and sending some into the insurgency.

Frattini also stressed the importance of preventing any infiltration by extremists into the new Libyan government.

NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Saturday in Benghazi his forces are in a "position of strength" and can enter any city, but that they want to avoid bloodshed. He said now is the time for Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte, Bani Walid and several other locations to peacefully surrender, vowing that no revenge would be taken.

Provisional authorities have extended a deadline for all opponents to lay down arms until next Saturday. NTC officials hope they can avoid laying siege to civilian areas. It is not clear whether the new deadline applies to Bani Walid.