by our Arab Affairs correspondent

MUAMMAR Gaddafi remains defiant as loyalist forces push east to try and oust the rebels out of the swathe of coastal towns seized during the first week of the revolt against his 42-years of rule. But as imperialist moves towards military intervention grow, the Libyan leader faces increasing isolation in the rest of the Arab world which is looking with indifference and hostility at his attempts to save his “Green Revolution”.

The Libyan air force has bombed arms dumps in the rebel-held east and loyalist troops marched into the oil terminal town of Brega, south of the rebel provincial capital of Benghazi, unopposed on Wednesday. The rebels say that they’ve now retaken Brega but they’re appealing for United Nations and imperialist help to impose a “no-fly” zone to stop further air attacks on their positions.

Back in the capital, Tripoli, Gaddafi has been rallying the people and talking to the international media, which he blames for encouraging the unrest.

The rebels dismiss the Gaddafi government as a corrupt and secretive family business propped up by an army of African mercenaries but they’ve been equally coy about their own shadowy backers. Though headed by some prominent defectors from the Gaddafi camp the “National Libyan Council” is basically a front for the CIA-funded National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), the Muslim Brotherhood and tribal leaders linked to the former royal family ousted in the 1969 revolution.

In the government-controlled west and south of the country Libyan workers have been given a loyalty bonus of about month’s wages amid reports that Gaddafi’s emissaries are now trying to appease the Warfalla, the biggest tribe in eastern Libya, whose people once held key posts in the security forces and the police but have now gone over to the rebel side.

Meanwhile imperialist moves in support of the rebels continue as two US warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, enter the Suez Canal en route for the Libyan coast and 20 other Nato warships begin naval exercises in the western Mediterranean.

On Monday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Geneva, saying that Washington was keeping “all options” open on Libya. She was more specific later at a press conference, saying that she had met in Geneva with some of her European counterparts and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to discuss the issue of Libya. Shortly afterwards Nato admitted it was ready to carry out military operations against Libya with the approval of its member countries.

British Prime Minister David Cameron says that the West “is ready” to use military force against the Gaddafi government and the US and France have also pledged to aid to the opposition-controlled east, and taken steps to freeze billions in Libyan regime assets abroad.

Libya has been suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council following the unanimous decision of the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Libya regime for its attempts to put down the uprising. The Security Council has backed an arms embargo and asset freeze while referring Colonel Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Muammar Gaddafi’s mercurial policy on Palestine and other Arab national issues has lost him most of the support he once enjoyed on the Arab street. The Muslim Brothers hate him and their Egyptian leader has openly called for his assassination.

Others have not forgiven Gaddafi for openly supporting the recently overthrown Tunisian dictatorship; the Saudis and the other oil princes have never forgotten Gaddafi’s public insults they have put up with over the years, while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), amongst others, has openly embraced the Libyan opposition to what they now call Gaddafi’s “fascist dictatorship”.

But in the corridors of power in the Arab world there’s a growing fear of Nato military intervention. Though Libya has been suspended from membership of the Arab League the Arab foreign ministers’ special meeting in Cairo to discuss the crisis rejected any outside interference while the Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, has called for the creation of a commission of good will to serve as mediator and seek a peaceful solution to Libya’s internal conflict.

The Venezuelan president insisted that efforts to begin talks must be based on respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the people.