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Rebels Aiming at Tripoli, Says Libyan Opposition Leader

A Libyan rebel fighter uses a walkie talkie at their position in Misrata's western front line, some 25 km (16 miles) from the city center June 9, 2011

The general secretary of Libya’s opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) says rebels will soon launch an offensive to take over the capital Tripoli, as pressure mounts on Moammar Gadhafi to step down.

Abdul Karim said the rebels will continue with their main objective, which he said, is to liberate Libyans from Gadhafi’s dictatorship.

“We believe now that the circle has started to be tightened around the Gadhafi forces in Tripoli. [Since] this is the main capital, we expect a big battle there, very shortly,” he said.

In a defiant speech broadcast on state television following increased NATO airstrikes, Gadhafi said Libyans will not surrender and will stay in their country until the end. But, Karim predicted victory for the opposition.

“We have gained freedom in most parts of Libya and we will do our best to liberate Tripoli, either to win or to die,” said Karim.

The opposition leader added that the incessant NATO airstrikes are helping the rebels to liberate and to protect Libyans who, he said, have often come under attacks from Gadhafi loyalists.

Karim expressed concerns about the atrocities allegedly committed by pro-Gadhafi forces.

“We received many reports about thousands of mercenaries he [Gadhafi] brought from some African countries, which he has equipped,” Karim said. “But, we are sure that finally, we will win.”

Meanwhile, NATO says it is committed to its military campaign against forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and is preparing for a Libya without the authoritarian leader.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday after a meeting of alliance defense ministers in Brussels that Gadhafi's departure is no longer a question of “if” he goes, but rather “when” he goes.