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Gaddafi warns against no-fly zone
TRIPOLI, Mar 9 (Agencies):
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Published on 10 Mar. 2011 12:44 AM IST
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As world powers debate measures against him, including the creation of a possible no-fly zone to ground his warplanes, Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi vowed on Wednesday that Libyans would take up arms to resist such measures, calling them an attempt to rob Libyans of their freedom and their oil.
He was speaking in an interview with Turkish public television in Tripoli as his forces deployed airstrikes, armor and artillery against rebels seeking his ouster in battles along the eastern Mediterranean coast and in the besieged western city of Zawiyah, which the government claimed to have mostly re-captured on Wednesday.
The debate on a no-fly zone has become louder in world capitals with European countries such as Britain and France seem to favor the idea while the United State Defense Secretary. Robert M. Gates, has underscored the difficulties of imposing a ban comparable to the prohibition on flights over the north and south of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Britain and France are working on a United Nations resolution to authorize a no-flight zone, though it is unclear that such a measure could gain needed support from Russia and China, which are traditionally leery of military intervention.
As the fighting continued on Tuesday, President Obama and the British prime minister, David Cameron, agreed in a phone call on the shared objective of “the departure of Gaddafi from power as quickly as possible,” the White House said in a statement, adding that they would “press forward with planning, including at NATO, on the full spectrum of possible responses, including surveillance, humanitarian assistance, enforcement of the arms embargo and a no-fly zone.”
In his interview with Turkish journalists, broadcast in Turkey on Wednesday, Colonel Gaddafi seemed almost to welcome the idea himself, arguing that it would expose Western motives.
“Such a move would be very useful in a way that all Libyan people would then realize that their real intention is to take Libya under control, take people’s freedoms away and seize their oil,” he said. “Therefore, all Libyan people would take up arms and fight.”
As on several occasions in the past, he argued that Libya has provided a guarantee of security in the Mediterranean stretching to southern Europe, standing as a bulwark against Al Qaeda.
“The stability of Libya means the security of the Mediterranean and therefore the security of the world,” Colonel Gaddafi said. “If Al Qaeda takes over in Libya, it would be a major disaster and Europe would soon be filled with refugees that Al Qaeda would transfer from Africa.” “If they seize control here, the whole region including Israel would be dragged into chaos, no one can prevent them as efficiently as we did,” he said.
Col. Gaddafi gave his interview at a hotel in Tripoli where foreign reporters are staying, arriving there after loyalist forces battered the rebel-held city of Zawiyah for a fifth day. With land lines, cellphones and the Internet down, and journalists barred from the area, it was impossible to tell whose flag flew over Zawiyah’s central square as darkness fell.
But there were mounting reports on Wednesday that loyalist forces had used overwhelming force in the city to encircle its main square. “They have surrounded the square with snipers and tanks. The situation is not so good. It’s very scary. There are a lot of snipers,” a resident, who was not identified by name, told Reuters.
Fighting was also reported on Tuesday in the rebel-held city of Misratah, Libya’s third largest, about 100 miles east of Tripoli.
Far from Libya’s shores, global powers seem frustrated by their apparent inability to influence events, with Colonel Gaddafi seeming impervious to criticism and rebels in eastern Libya cautious about accepting western help beyond the imposition of a no-fly zone. In a major embarrassment, a team of British diplomats guarded by special forces made an ignominious retreat from Benghazi, the rebel capital, aboard a British warship on Monday after being arrested and held at the weekend.
The diplomatic and political effort to hasten Colonel Gaddafi’s departures is focused on NATO meetings in Brussels on Thursday and Friday
The Pentagon press secretary, Geoffrey Morrell, told reporters traveling with Mr. Gates from Afghanistan to Brussels on Wednesday that the defense secretary’s position on a possible no-fly zone had not changed — in short, that it remains one of a number of potential military courses of action that Mr. Gates is providing to Mr. Obama.
“We are committed to providing the president with the full range of options for him to consider, including a no-fly zone,” Mr. Morrell said on Mr. Gates’ plane. “But he also sees it as his responsibility to provide the president and his national security team with the potential consequences of military action. So that work has been and is underway.”
Mr. Morrell took issue with suggestions that Mr. Gates, based on comments the defense secretary made on Capitol Hill last week, was adamantly opposed to a no-fly zone. In those comments, Mr. Gates said that people should “call a spade a spade” and recognize that establishing a no-fly zone would first require air strikes on Libya’s air defense system.
In previous public statement, Mr. Gates has said that now is not the time for the United States to get involved in another war in the Middle East. Despite those remarks, Mr. Morrell said that Mr. Gates “has not staked out a position in opposition to any particular course of action.”
In the Middle East, the Gulf Cooperation Council has already endorsed a no-flight zone, and speaking in Washington, a representative of the Arab League said it was expected to support the idea as well. Western leaders have stressed the need for international support before undertaking a no-flight zone, so they do not appear to be meddling.

 
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