August 17, 2011
It is hard to see how Gaddafi could be ousted without the United States fueling the rebel groups. The US said the dictator’s “days are numbered”.
by Richard Spencer
August 16, 2011
Abdel-Elah al-Khatib, the former Jordanian foreign minister appointed by the United Nations to try to negotiate an end to the conflict, said he was meeting representatives of both sides of the Libyan conflict in Tunisia.
The rebel leaders’ Transitional National Council denied that its representatives were involved, but no such claim came from the Gaddafi regime.
The rebels now believe they have no need to offer concessions on their demand for Col Gaddafi to leave Libya or surrender, after cutting off his supply lines in the last four days.
Mansur Saif Al-Nasser, their ambassador to France, said they hoped to have secured victory by the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in two weeks’ time.
“Our forces totally control Zawiyah, which will open the way to Tripoli,” he said in a radio interview. “This will allow the population there to revolt.
We are entering a decisive phase.
“Soon we will liberate all of southern Libya. We hope to celebrate the final victory at the same time as the end of Ramadan.”
Nato leaders are also increasingly confident that the war is moving towards an endgame. “I think the sense is that Gaddafi’s days are numbered,” the new US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, said in Washington.
Despite their confidence, bitter fighting continued in Zawiyah, the oil refinery town 30 miles to the west of Tripoli which controls the supply route to the border with Tunisia.
But the regime has shown increasing desperation in its claims to be able to survive. Mussa Ibrahim, the government spokesman, confirmed that a long-term loyalist and former interior minister, Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdullah, who arrived in Egypt with his family on Monday, had defected.
Nato also confirmed reports that the regime had fired a Scud missile at rebel positions behind the front line in the east. It missed and did no damage.
Col Roland Lavoie, a Nato spokesman, described the use of Scud missiles as “irresponsible” because of the threat of civilian casualties but in practical terms as much use as “throwing dishes against a wall”. “It makes a lot of noise, but that’s all,” he said.
Mr Khatib said he met “separately” with both sides of the conflict, adding that he was not part of rumoured, but heavily denied, direct talks between the two sides in the Tunisian resort of Djerba.
But, significantly, he said he might also meet a representative of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a friend and ally of Col Gaddafi, while he was in Tunisia. In the early days of the uprising against his rule, there were repeated reports, including from MI6, that Col Gaddafi might seek exile in the Latin American country.