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Libyan Rebels Ask France for Weapons to March on Tripoli

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy (R) and Suleiman Fortia, Misrata TNC member, speak during a news conference after lobbying French President Sarkozy for weapons supplies, in Paris, July 20, 2011
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy (R) and Suleiman Fortia, Misrata TNC member, speak during a news conference after lobbying French President Sarkozy for weapons supplies, in Paris, July 20, 2011

Libyan rebel leaders visiting France say they have asked President Nicolas Sarkozy for military aid to enable them to march on Tripoli, the stronghold of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The rebel delegation made the request to Sarkozy in Paris during a meeting on Wednesday. The delegation includes a representative of western Libya's rebel-controlled city of Misrata, Suleiman Fortia.

After the meeting, he said the rebels believe they can march on the Libyan capital within "days" with "a bit of help" from friends such as France.

French writer and supporter of the rebels, Bernard-Henri Levy, also attended the talks. He said the rebels told Sarkozy that they can seize Tripoli by attacking from Misrata and from rebel-held mountainous territory to the south of the capital.

It was not clear how the French president reacted to the rebel appeal. France previously dropped arms to rebels in Libya's western mountains last month.

France is participating in a three-month-old NATO-led campaign of airstrikes on pro-Gadhafi forces. The airstrikes support rebels who began an uprising in March to end Gadhafi's 42-year autocratic rule.

In another development, Chinese state news agency Xinhua says President Hu Jintao has called on all parties in Libya to agree on an immediate cease-fire and resolve the crisis through dialogue.

It says he made the comment in a phone conversation Thursday with South African President Jacob Zuma.

Xinhua says Hu expressed appreciation for South Africa's bid to mediate a political solution to the conflict on behalf of the African Union, and promised to coordinate with Zuma on those efforts.

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

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