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France formally recognises Libyan rebels’ authority

March 10, 2011 2 comments
France is the first country to formally recognise the legitimacy of Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council and
will open an embassy in Benghazi, the government announced after meeting with NTC representatives in Paris Thursday.

AP – Libya’s opposition battled for military and diplomatic advantage against Moammar Gadhafi’s embattled regime on Thursday, winning official recognition from France and hitting government forces with heavy weapons on the road to the capital.

France became the first country to formally recognize the rebels’ newly created Interim Governing Council, saying it planned to exchange ambassadors after President Nicolas Sarkozy met with two representatives of the group based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The international Red Cross said dozens of civilians have been wounded or killed in recent days in grueling battles between Gadhafi’s army and the opposition movement trying to oust him.

The fighting intensified on the main front line between the Mediterranean oil port of Ras Lanouf and the city of Bin Jawwad, where the rebels appeared to be have established better supply lines bringing heavy weapons like multiple-rocket launcher trucks and small tanks to the battle.

Youssef Fittori, a major in the opposition force, said a mix of defectors from Gadhafi’s special forces and civilain rebels were fighting government forces about 12 miles west of Ras Lanouf on the main coastal road to Bin Jawwad.

“Today, God willing, we will take Bin Jawwad. We are moving forward,” he said.

Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger said local doctors over the past few days saw a sharp increase in casualties arriving at hospitals in Ajdabiya, in the rebel-held east, and Misrata, in government territory.

Both places saw heavy fighting and air strikes, he said.

Kellenberger said 40 patients were treated for serious injuries in Misrata and 22 dead were taken there.

He said the Red Cross surgical team in Ajdabiya operated on 55 wounded over the past week and “civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence.”

He said the aid organization is cut off from access in western areas including Tripoli but believes those are “even more severely affected by the fighting” than eastern rebel-held territories.

Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported Thursday that it lost direct contact a week ago with its correspondent who was covering the unrest in Libya, and the paper said it feared he had been taken prisoner along with another unnamed journalist and a Libyan guide.

The newspaper, one of Brazil’s largest, said it had been receiving until Sunday what it characterized as “indirect information” indicating Andrei Netto was alright in the region of Zawiya.

But on Wednesday the newspaper said it received information suggesting Netto had been taken prisoner by Libyan government forces, and that a Libyan official said the information was “probably correct.”

Netto entered Libya on Feb. 19 from the border with Tunisia and worked his way toward Zawiya, the newspaper said. He is the publication’s Paris correspondent.

Brazil’s government, its embassy in Libya, the Red Cross and other groups are trying to find out more about Netto and to determine he is safe, the newspaper said.

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Guardian correspondent missing in Libya

Urgent efforts are under way to establish the whereabouts of the Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who has been reporting from western Libya for the past two weeks.

Abdul-Ahad entered the country from Tunisia and was last in touch with the paper through a third party on Sunday, when he was on the outskirts of Zawiya, a town west of the capital, Tripoli, which has seen fierce fighting in the past few days.

The Guardian has been in contact with Libyan government officials in Tripoli and London and asked them to urgently give all assistance in the search for Abdul-Ahad and to establish of he is in the custody of the authorities.

Abdul-Ahad, who is an Iraqi national, is a highly respected staff correspondent who has written for the Guardian since 2004. He has spent long periods in Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, reporting on the stories of ordinary people and their suffering in times of conflict.

He has won many of the most prestigious awards available to foreign correspondents, including Foreign Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards, the James Cameron award and the Martha Gellhorn prize. He was shortlisted in February in the Foreign Reporter of the Year category at this year’s UK Press Awards.

Abdul-Ahad was travelling with Andrei Netto of the Brazilian newspaper Estado, who is also missing. — Guardian

Gaddafi forces beat up BBC team

Goktay Koraltan and Feras Killani said other detainees had been badly beaten

(BBC) — Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s security forces detained and beat up a BBC news team who were trying to reach the strife-torn western city of Zawiya.

The three were beaten with fists, knees and rifles, hooded and subjected to mock executions by members of Libya’s army and secret police.

The men were detained on Monday and held for 21 hours, but have now flown out of Libya.

Government forces are in a fierce fight to wrest Zawiya from rebel control.

Artillery and tanks have pounded the city – which lies 50km (30 miles) from the capital Tripoli – over the past four days.

‘Gun against neck’

The BBC team showed their identification when they were detained at an army roadblock on Monday.

The three of them were taken to a huge military barracks in Tripoli, where they were blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten.

One of the three, Chris Cobb-Smith, said: “We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line – facing the wall.

“I looked and I saw a plain-clothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone’s neck. I saw him and he screamed at me.

“Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed.”

A second member of the team – Feras Killani, a correspondent of Palestinian descent – is said to have been singled out for repeated beatings.

Their captors told him they did not like his reporting of the Libyan popular uprising and accused him of being a spy.

The third member of the team, cameraman Goktay Koraltan, said they were all convinced they were going to die.

During their detention, the BBC team saw evidence of torture against Libyan detainees, many of whom were from Zawiya.

‘Abusive treatment’

Koraltan said: “I cannot describe how bad it was. Most of them [other detainees] were hooded and handcuffed really tightly, all with swollen hands and broken ribs. They were in agony. They were screaming.”

Killani said: “Four of them [detainees] were in a very bad situation. There was evidence of torture on their faces and bodies. One of them said he had at least two broken ribs. I spent at least six hours helping them drink, sleep, urinate and move from one side to another.”

A senior Libyan government official later apologised for the BBC team’s ordeal.

But the BBC said in a statement that it “strongly condemns this abusive treatment”.

“The safety of our staff is our primary concern especially when they are working in such difficult circumstances and it is essential that journalists working for the BBC, or any media organisation, are allowed to report on the situation in Libya without fear of attack,” said the statement from Liliane Landor, languages controller of BBC Global News.

“Despite these attacks, the BBC will continue to cover the evolving story in Libya for our audiences both inside and outside the country.”

Libya: Gaddafi’s forces break into Zawiyah

Cairo: Tanks of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces broke into the embattled western Libyan city of Zawiyah on Wednesday, while his fighters pounded the oil port of Ras Lanuf in the east as the US and its western allies appeared to be firming up plans to impose a no-fly zone over the country.

The tanks rolled into Zawiyah after days of pitched battle between the

loyalists and rebels, which according to residents have reduced large parts of the town to rubbles with unclaimed bodies strewn all over, Al-Jazeera reported.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed a possible no-fly zone over Libya but both countries maintained that any intervention must have wide international support. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, made it clear that “any decision to impose a no-fly zone over Libya should be made by the UN and not by US.”

Libya: Gaddafi's forces break into Zawiyah

As the possibility of international intervention grew, the Libyan strongman Gaddafi hit back warning that his people would take up arms if such a zone is imposed by the western nations or the UN.

Unfazed by an ultimatum served on him by the rebels to step down within 72 hours, Gaddafi, in his interview to Turkish TV, said a no-fly zone would show the true intention of the Americans and their European allies to “colonise Libya and seize its oil wealth”.

68-year-old Gaddafi also appealed to the people in the east, who have shunned him, to rise and topple the members of the newly-formed rebel Libyan National Council. Al-Jazeera reported that Gaddafi had not deployed a major portion of his elite army regiments and was holding them to confront a feared western invasion.

Gaddafi was shown walking into a five-star hotel in the capital Tripoli to give interview to state TV and the Turkish TV. His comments came amid reports that rebels had served him an ultimatum to step down within 72 hours.

“If he leaves Libya immediately, during 72 hours, and stops the bombardment, we as Libyans will step back from pursuing him for crimes,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Opposition National Council, told Al-Jazeera.

“Conditions are that firstly he stops all combat in the fields, secondly that his departure is within 72 hours; thirdly we may waive our right of domestic prosecution for the crimes of oppression, persecution, starvation and massacres,” Jalil said.

The offer came as reports said Gaddafi had sent feelers to the opposition movement, expressing willingness to negotiate his exit.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that Gaddafi, who has been in power for 41 years, was willing to step down in return for having war crimes charges against him dropped and a guaranteed safe exit for him and his family.

The reports also said the Libyan dictator was looking for a place to live in exile. However state television rubbished these reports. An official from the Libyan Foreign Ministry described the reports as “absolute nonsense”.

In the east, after capturing the small city of Bin Jawad, Gaddafi’s forces had encircled Ras Lanuf as for the third day on Wednesday his fighters pounded the city from where an exodus was reported.

In London, in an interview to Sky News, Clinton, while saying that a decision to impose a no-fly zone should be made by the UN, renewed her government’s call for Gaddafi to step down peacefully.

According to UN estimates, over 1,000 people have been killed since Libya’s uprising began on February 14.

More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them are foreign workers. The exodus is creating a humanitarian crisis across the border with Tunisia.

Al Jazeera Launches Twitter Dashboard To Track Uprisings in Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain

Qatar-based news outlet Al Jazeera has launched a Twitter dashboard to illustrate tweets about uprisings and revolutions around the world.

The dashboard tallies the daily number of tweets about developments in each listed country (the site is currently tracking Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain) and shows the average number of such tweets per minute for each country. It also graphs the number of such tweets from each country over time and shows a visual representation of the “hashtag distribution for each country getting the most attention in the Twittersphere.”

Al Jazeera has led the world’s media coverage of protests and revolutions throughout the Middle East and Africa. Some have called the uprisings the news network’s “CNN moment.” (CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War is largely responsible for launching its current popularity, much the same way current events have catapulted Al Jazeera’s standing.)

But considering other projects such as Iamjan25.com, real-time tweet visualizer HyperCities Egypt and other news organizations’ interactive maps of real-time tweets from the same areas, it seems as though Al Jazeera was uncharacteristically late to this idea.

Even so, the dashboard provides a handy, at-a-glance gauge of where and how people are using Twitter to discuss uprisings in the Middle East and the Arab world.

*Source: Mashable

Stay out of Libya: The Risks of US Intervention

In September 1941, Japan’s leaders had a question for Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto: Could he cripple the US fleet in Hawaii? Yes, he said. Then he had a question for the leaders: But then what?

Following an attack, he said, “I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence” after that.

Yamamoto knew America: He’d attended Harvard and been naval attaché in Japan’s embassy in Washington. He knew Japan would be at war with an enraged industrial giant. The tide-turning defeat of Japan’s navy at the Battle of Midway occurred June 7, 1942 — exactly six months after Pearl Harbor.

Today, some Washington voices are calling for US force to be applied, somehow, on behalf of the people trying to overthrow Moammar Khadafy. Some interventionists are Republicans, whose skepticism about government’s abilities to achieve intended effects ends at the water’s edge. All interventionists should answer some questions:

* The world would be better without Khadafy. But is that a vital US national interest? If it is, when did it become so? A month ago, no one thought it was.

* How much of Khadafy’s violence is coming from the air? Even if his aircraft are swept from his skies, would that be decisive?

* What lesson should be learned from the fact that Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War — the massacre by Serbs of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica — occurred beneath a no-fly zone?

* Sen. John Kerry says: “The last thing we want to think about is any kind of military intervention. And I don’t consider the fly zone stepping over that line.” But how is imposing a no-fly zone — the use of military force to further military and political objectives — not military intervention?

* US forces might ground Khadafy’s fixed-wing aircraft by destroying runways at his 13 air bases, but to keep helicopter gunships grounded would require continuing air patrols, which would require the destruction of Libya’s radar and anti-aircraft installations.

If collateral damage from such destruction included civilian deaths — remember those nine Afghan boys recently killed by mistake when they were gathering firewood — are we prepared for the televised pictures?

* The Economist reports Khadafy has “a huge arsenal of Russian surface-to-air missiles” and that some experts think Libya has SAMs that could threaten US or allies’ aircraft. If a pilot is downed and captured, are we ready for the hostage drama?

* If we decide to give war supplies to the anti-Khadafy fighters, how do we get them there?

* Presumably we’d coordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Khadafy forces. Who are they?

* Libya is a tribal society. What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics?

* Because of what seems to have been the controlling goal of avoiding US and NATO casualties, the humanitarian intervention — 79 days of bombing — against Serbia in Kosovo was conducted from 15,000 feet. This marked the intervention as a project worth killing for but not worth dying for. Would intervention in Libya be similar? Are such interventions morally dubious?

* Could intervention avoid “mission creep”? If grounding Khadafy’s aircraft is a humanitarian imperative, why isn’t protecting his enemies from ground attacks?

* In Tunisia and then in Egypt, regimes were toppled by protests. Libya is convulsed not by protests but by war. Not a war of aggression, not a war with armies violating national borders and thereby implicating the basic tenets of agreed-upon elements of international law, but — a civil war. How often has intervention by nation A in nation B’s civil war enlarged the welfare of nation A?

* Before we intervene in Libya, do we ask the UN for permission? If it is refused, do we proceed anyway? If so, why ask? If we are refused permission and recede from intervention, have we not made US foreign policy hostage to a hostile institution?

* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fears Libya becoming a failed state — “a giant Somalia.” Speaking of which, have we not seen a cautionary movie — “Black Hawk Down” — about how humanitarian military interventions can take nasty turns?

* The Egyptian crowds watched and learned from the Tunisian crowds. But the Libyan government watched and learned from the fate of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments. It has decided to fight. Would not US intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect US military assistance?

* Would it be wise for US military force to be engaged simultaneously in three Muslim nations?

georgewill@washpost.com

Charlie Sheen, Gaddafi and Mubarak to star in ‘Two and a Half Lunatics’

Charlie Sheen, Colonel Gaddafi and pint-sized Hosni Mubarak are to star in a new sitcom following the comedic antics of a middle-aged trio who spend their days completely divorced from reality.
The new sitcom will be made by HBO and will show our three protagonists doing whatever the hell they like whenever they feel like it, completely devoid of all responsibility or consequence.
A channel spokesperson said, “Television audiences around the world have been left chuckling at their respective solo shows in the last few weeks, so we’re sure the three of them together will be comedy dynamite.”
“The pilot will see Charlie Sheen having sex with a prostitute in a police station waiting room, whilst Gaddafi shoots passers by because he’s bored – all of this with the backdrop of Mubarak insisting he is now the Governor of California.”
“We see it as the West Wing meets Clockwork orange, all filmed on the set of Joey.”
Two and a half lunatics
A 24 episode run has been commissioned with filming now underway, and producers have admitted there have already been some onset high-jinks among the shows stars.
A show insider told us, “Charlie kept going on about being the winningest and having Tigerblood, so Gaddafi imported a couple of tigers and put them in his trailer.”
“Oh how we laughed, until he came out roaring and covered in their blood, with a face covered in what looked like Talcum powder.”
“Hosni seems to think he’s the director, giving everyone orders all the time, but we’re all just ignoring him now.”
“To be honest, I don’t know why we bother with a script, we should turn this into a docu-soap and just follow them around. It knocks the tits off Jersey Shore.”

*Source: News Thump