Libyan forces beat back rebels

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

LIBYAN forces have beaten back repeated rebel attempts to seize the key oil refinery town of Brega in a week of fighting that saw Nato step up the bombing of the Libyan capital and their air-support for the rebel bands in the east of the country. But behind the scenes diplomatic efforts to end the conflict are gaining momentum following the disclosure of meetings between senior Libyan officials and representatives of the US and French governments.

Nato’s air terror continues relentlessly with continuous strikes on the Libyan capital to try to break the morale of the Libyan people.

Tripoli’s international airport was bombed for the first time, knocking out a radar tower which the imperialists claim was being used to track the Nato raiders. This was dismissed as nonsense by the airport authorities.

Pointing at the twisted metal at the top of the red-and-white tower, acting airport director Naji Daw said: “It is 100 per cent civilian”. Two people were injured in the pre-dawn air raid. “They want us to go back to 100 years ago,” he said, adding that the airport will now have to rely on an outdated back-up system to track air traffic.

But the Libyan army has held Brega, on the road to the rebel-held provincial capital of Benghazi, putting the rebels on the run after five days of fierce fighting. According to the loyalists some 500 rebels were killed in the battle for control of the key oil terminal. Some 30 Libyan soldiers and tribal militiamen also fell in the fighting.


Libyan government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim told reporters in Tripoli: “Brega is under the full control of our Libyans, helped by the tribes and volunteers, and everything that has been announced by the self-proclaimed National Transitional Council is lies and disinformation.”

“Defending Brega is so vital to the livelihood of the Libyan nation,” Ibrahim said. “We will turn Brega into hell rather than let it fall into the hands of advancing rebel forces. We will not give Brega up, even if this causes the death of thousands of rebels and the destruction of the whole city,” he declared.

The imperialist-backed rebels, a motley crew of Muslim fundamentalists, Gaddafi turncoats, royalists and dissident tribesmen clearly launched their Brega offensive and yet another forlorn attempt to break out of the besieged western city of Misrata to impress their imperialist mentors, who agreed only last week to broaden their diplomatic and financial support for the rebel “National Transitional Council”.

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They may also sense the need to hold as much land as they can to be in a good position when the fighting ends and the bargaining begins — especially given the fact that loyalist forces now control 20 per cent more territory than they did when the imperialist inspired revolt began.

While the imperialists repeatedly spurn African Union peace initiatives, it’s now clear that secret talks with the Gaddafi government to end the fighting have already started. Italy wants out and the French, who have admitted holding talks with Libyan officials, now say that Muammar Gaddafi could remain in Libya if he surrenders power and follows a Paris-backed ceasefire deal. The Americans, who held talks with Libyan representatives in Tunisia last weekend, also state that they repeated Washington’s demand for Gaddafi to resign. They didn’t repeat the call for Gaddafi to leave the country — which the Libyan leader says he will never do under any circumstances.

Because the civil war is essentially tribal there can clearly be no compromise settlement without the inclusion of Muammar Gaddafi or a prominent member of his family.

But though there’s enough oil in the country to meet the demands of dissident tribes in the rebel controlled province of Cyrenaica, Anglo-American and French imperialism want it all for themselves.

When they started this war they clearly wanted to partition the country into two or three weak statelets that would exist only as imperialist protectorates.

Whether the imperialists are now prepared to call it a day and settle for a compromise after six months of fighting and the total failure of Nato aviation to break the back of the Libyan resistance remains to be seen.