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Libyan Rebels Capture Part of Eastern Oil Port


Armoured vehicles belonging to Muammar Gaddafi's troops, which were destroyed by an earlier air strike, are left near the village of Al-Qawalish July 18, 2011

Armoured vehicles belonging to Muammar Gaddafi's troops, which were destroyed by an earlier air strike, are left near the village of Al-Qawalish July 18, 2011

Libyan rebels say they have captured part of the eastern oil port of Brega after days of fighting with loyalists of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The rebels said Monday they were in control of the eastern part of Brega and were moving against government forces in the western side after a day of street battles involving machine guns.

The rebels, who control much of eastern Libya and parts of the west, launched an offensive on Brega last week. They say the fighting has killed at least 12 of their fighters and wounded more than 270. Casualties among pro-Gadhafi forces were unclear.

Libyan rebels have been fighting since February to end Gadhafi's four-decade long autocratic rule by advancing on the capital, Tripoli, his stronghold in Libya's west. NATO warplanes have been helping the rebels by bombing pro-Gadhafi forces under a U.N. mandate to prevent government attacks on civilians.

NATO says it struck an antenna radar system at Tripoli's main airport on Monday. It says the Libyan government was using the radar for military purposes.

The United States and its allies also have been trying to boost the rebels diplomatically, recognizing them as the legitimate authority of Libya at a conference in Istanbul last week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized that move on Monday, saying the 30 nations at the conference were picking one side in a civil war and trying to isolate the other. He said Moscow rejects a strategy of isolation as the solution to a political problem.

Lavrov also said Russia will not offer asylum to Gadhafi if he steps down as the rebels and NATO are demanding. Gadhafi has vowed to remain in Libya and keep fighting until the end.

British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the Libya conflict with South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Monday. Cameron says he and Zuma agreed that a political transition in Libya must be led by the Libyan people and result in the ultimate goal of a democratic nation without Gadhafi as its leader.

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