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Libyan Rebels Again Lose Hold on Key Oil Town


Libyan rebels retreat followed by incoming shells fired by pro-Gadhafi forces along the front line near Brega, Libya, April 5, 2011

Libyan rebels retreat followed by incoming shells fired by pro-Gadhafi forces along the front line near Brega, Libya, April 5, 2011

Libyan rebel forces again have been pushed back by government loyalists in the seesaw battle for control of the key eastern oil town of Brega.

Western media reports on Tuesday say that despite a NATO airstrike against a convoy of Libyan military vehicles, rebels were forced to retreat east towards the city of Ajdabiya. Rebels say they came under rocket and artillery fire.

Rival forces have been in a standoff around Brega for days.

Control of the town's refineries and port could provide the rebels with the economic boost needed to maintain their fight against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

The rebels are expected on Tuesday to load their first oil shipment in the eastern oil port of Marsa el Hariga, near Tobruk. News reports say the shipment likely is headed to Qatar. Qatar, along with France and Italy, have granted official recognition to the Libyan rebel administration, the Transitional National Council.

NATO, meanwhile, reported that allied coalition airstrikes have destroyed 30 percent of Libya's military in enforcing the United Nations-mandated no-fly zone aimed at protecting civilians.

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict continue.

Libya's acting Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi held talks Monday with senior Turkish officials on brokering a cease-fire with opposition forces. Turkey said it expects to host representatives from the rebel council in the next few days.

Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Libya is open to political, electoral or constitutional changes, but only as long as Gadhafi leads the transition forward.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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