Friday, March 25, 2011
Gaddafi is trying to negotiate behind the scenes
Rebel forces in the desert near Ajdabiyah.
The regime of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya is seeking some kind of peaceful end to U.N.-backed military action or a safe exit for members of Gaddafi's entourage. Messages have been sent via intermediaries in Austria, Britain and France, Reuters said quoting Roger Tamraz, a Middle Eastern businessman with long experience conducting deals with the Libyan regime. In an interview on Tuesday with a U.S. television network, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said she was aware that people close to Gaddafi had been trying to make contact.
This news came after Adm. Edouard Guillaud, the commander of the French troops, said on Thursday that the Libyan airspace is under control. 'We proved it yesterday, because a Libyan plane in the hands of pro-Gadhafi forces, which had just taken off from Misrata in order to bomb Misrata, was destroyed by a French Rafale," he told France 24 Info. He warned, however, that the struggle wil not be short. 'I think it will be weeks. I hope it will not take months.'
Guillaud said a French plane destroyed an artillery battery belonging to Gaddafi's forces near the eastern frontline town of Ajdabiyah, 150 km south of Benghazi. Ajdabiyah is strategically important as it commands the coastal highway to the west. British jets also launched missiles at Libyan armoured vehicles near Ajdabiya during a sixth night of allied raids, the BBC said..
Reuters reported that Western jets pounded targets in southern Libya on Thursday but failed to prevent government tanks re-entering the western city of Misrata, whose main hospital was besieged by armor and government snipers.
Western commanders hope rebel forces in eastern Libya will overthrow Gaddafi, but the return of tanks to Misrata under cover of darkness highlighted the difficulties they face in trying to force the Libyan leader to cease fire. Residents are said to control the port, but electricity, water and regular land and cell phone service to the town are not functioning. In Benghazi, where the opposition has set up an alternative government, rebel fighters say they need anti-tank weapons if they are to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule.
The NATO is meanwhile exspected to take over the command over the operations. NATO officials said a decision was expected on Sunday on whether to broaden the mandate to take full command, including over attacks on ground targets to protect civilian areas under threat.
The final decision comes after days of heated arguments over the scope the U.N. resolution gave for military action against Gaddafi. The United States, which already has enough going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, wanted to step back and play a supporting role in Libya. France, Britain and most NATO member were for having the NATO to take over. But for a decision unanimity is needed and Turkey said it did not want NATO to take responsibility for offensive operations that could cause civilian casualties or be in charge of enforcing a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, while at th same time coalition aircraft were bombing Libyan forces.
In the meantime the operations will get more support from the side of Arab countries. The United Arab Emirates will send 12 planes, the state news agency said. Qatar has already contributed two fighters and two military transport planes to help enforce the no-fly zone. Reuters reported that there is also support from Sudan, which has allowed the coalition forces to use its airspace for operations in the south of Libya..