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Libyans in US Call for Support of Rebels against Gadhafi

Moammar Gadhafi (file photo)

Moammar Gadhafi (file photo)

As fighting between Libyan rebels and troops loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi continued Thursday and coalition forces carried out airstrikes against government targets, Libyans in the United States urged the international community to support the rebels in their homeland.

Members of the Libyan Emergency Task Force, a Virginia-based group calling for political reforms in Libya and for Moammar Gadhafi to leave office, told reporters here in Washington that reconciliation in their homeland is not possible as long as Mr. Gadhafi remains in power.

Ali Aujali, the former Libyan Ambassador to the United States, said the only resolution to the crisis in Libya would be for Mr. Gadhafi to leave the country. "There’s no compromise. No negotiation at all. Gadhafi must go. There is no way that we will be able to make a change if Gadhafi is still around," Aujali said.

Esam Omeish heads the task force, which was started after protests in Libya erupted last month. He noted that his organization is grateful for the international community's intervention to stem the crisis in Libya, which he said continues to claim the lives of innocent civilians.

"Qadhafi’s forces continue to do this day to kill and maim innocent civilians in many cities. Calls have come to us this morning from the city of Misutara, still talking about the grave conditions that people face in the mist of this crisis. People are deprived of food, water, medical assistance and other necessities of life," he said.

Former Libyan Ambassador Aujali called for international recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council and the new provisional government. And he stressed that international logistical and humanitarian support for the rebels is critical as well as training for rebel fighters.

"If the international community will not be able to help Libyan rebels with armaments, then I think what has been achieved by the coalition, hitting the strategic points of Gadhafi's [forces] will not get advantage of it [i.e., will not have been worth the effort]," he said.

The United Nations resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya allows for the protection of civilians. Military aid to the rebels is not included.

Although the Libyan Emergency Task Force says it supports the international community's decision regarding aid to the rebels, it would like the United States to continue to lead the no-fly mission over Libya.

"What I learned from my experience, is that changing course in the middle of race is not really very practical. But it is up to the coalition to decide who wants to take over," Aujali said.

NATO has announced it will take charge of enforcing the no-fly zone, and the White House says it will happen in a matter of days.