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Libyan Government, Rebels Lobby for International Support

Libyan Government, Rebels Lobby for International Support
Libyan Government, Rebels Lobby for International Support

With a military stalemate apparent on the front lines in Libya between pro-Gadhafi groups and the opposition, the war of words has taken center stage.

The two sides in Libya’s conflict spent much of the day Wednesday exchanging not only bullets but also efforts to win international support and depict their enemies as the real aggressors.

For the opposition, reports that Mr. Gadhafi’s air force conducted strikes against the oil fields in the east show just how little he cares about the economy and the well-being of the average Libyan.

In an interview with VOA, opposition leader and Provisional Transition Committee member Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga said the government attacks on the oil infrastructure could have far-reaching consequences. "The attacks on the oil fields and pipelines could lead to an environmental and humanitarian crisis, and will affect the financial capabilities of the Libyan people," he said.

Ghoga is a civil rights lawyer who now is one of the more prominent members of the 11-person national opposition committee. The interview with him took place following his group's second official meeting.

The opposition says the military strikes damaged the Ras Lanuf oil facility and a vital pipeline. Ghoga accused Mr. Gadhafi of trying to provoke and draw in Western forces, something Libyans have vocally and strongly opposed.

For his part, Moammar Gadhafi contends the rebels are acting on behalf of Western powers, and are planning to invite them in to take control of those very same oil resources. Mr. Gadhafi said that if the rebels were to gain control of Libya, it would throw the entire region, including Israel, into chaos.

Both sides Wednesday took the opportunity to court foreign powers to gain international support.

Representatives of the Gadhafi government flew to Cairo, Malta and Brussels for talks. The official who flew to Malta then went on to Portugal for meetings with that country’s foreign minister.

An opposition spokesman said his group had talks with Italian authorities in Benghazi before they went back to Egypt carrying a message to the West calling for increased support and a no-fly zone to be imposed against Mr. Gadhafi's air force.

Also Wednesday, France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy said he will meet with representatives of the Libyan opposition.

According to Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the aim for the Provisional Transition Committee now is to be seen as the true voice of the Libyan people. "We seek to be recognized by the international community that we are the sole and legitimate representatives of the Libyan people," he said.

But in Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi has branded the opposition as terrorists. State television called them agents and spies, and announced a $400,000 bounty on rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

The mood within the opposition is still optimistic. They say Mr. Gadhafi has lost all legitimacy both internationally and within Libya.

But without the long-requested no-fly zone, the opposition says what is now the inevitable outcome of this conflict, the ouster of Mr. Gadhafi, will be a longer time coming and will cost many more lives.

The question for many of the rebels here is what is the West waiting for?

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