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World leaders meet in London to decide Gaddafi's fate

Last updated on: March 29, 2011 16:38 IST

Libya: Rebels head for Gaddafi hometown


A regrouped Libyan opposition on Tuesday launched a fresh offensive on Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte ahead of a crucial meeting of leaders of western and Arab nations in London to seek a possible deal for Libyan leaders exit from power.

Helped by heavy strikes by coalition forces, the rebels were reported to have regrouped in the village of Harawa, 60 km from Sirte to capture the town of Nawfaliyah and were moving towards Sirte, Gaddafi's tribal hometown and an important military base in the sixth week of uprising against his 41-year-old rule, Al Jazeera channel reported.

Rebels used mortars and heavy machine guns to smash through government forces, defences at Nawfaliyah and head towards Sirte, but were meeting stiff resistance from Gaddafi's troops.

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Image: A Libyan rebel tank advances advances across the battlefield towards government troops
Photographs: John Moore/Getty Images

US forces step up pressure on Libyan government troops

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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and United States warplanes pounded tanks and heavy guns of Gaddafi's forces. For the first time, US media reports said Americans used the AC-130S and A-10 attack aircraft to carpet bomb government troops.

The aircraft, which fly low and slow over the battlefield were deployed only after a week of allied air strikes, which decimated Gaddafi's airforce. These aircrafts armed with heavy machine guns and cannons raked the ground to flush out dug-in troops and convoys in closer proximity to civilians.

The planes have been deployed to step up pressure on Libyan ground forces, who have retreated in the face of rebel advance and fortified around several cities east of Tripoli. As the rebels pressed ahead in the east, Gaddafi's forces using tanks and mobile rocket launchers overwhelmed the opposition in the western town of Misurata occupying its southern and northern fringes.

Image: Workers with an A-10 maintenance crew
Photographs: Getty Images
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London talks to decide Gaddafi's exit

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Libyan Army officials claimed that their forces had recaptured and liberated Misurata and declared a ceasefire on the western front. However, rebel sources said street fighting was on in the centre of the town. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU and NATO leaders, Arab League and leaders from African Union are scheduled to join talks in London to ratchet up pressure on Gaddafi and to chalk out an agreement on Libya's future.

Ahead of the key meeting, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, that several countries planned to put forward a deal which would propose a ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and a framework for talks between Libya's tribal leaders and opposition figures on the country's future.

The London meet will also decide on the scope of NATO-led coalition air strikes and to more clearly define the extent of cooperation between Libya's opposition groups and International Military Commanders.

Image: Commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and US Forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has a meeting with British PM David Cameron on March 22
Photographs: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
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Offensive on Libya like Hitler's invasion of Europe: Gaddafi

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No leader from the Libyan opposition is expected to attend the conference which is being held in the backdrop of NATO taking over the command role in the coalition strikes in Libya and Britain's formal recognition of Libya's rebel leadership as the country's legitimate government. Britain has thus become the third country to recognise the Libyan Transitional National Council after France and Qatar.

As the international leaders started assembling in London, Gaddafi in a letter addressed to them called for an end to what he called as "barbaric offensive" against Libya, likening it to Hitler's invasion of Europe and bombing of Britain in the World War-II.

"Stop your barbaric, unjust offensive on Libya. Leave Libya to Libyans", Gaddafi said in a letter to 35 leaders meeting in London, a copy of which was released by official Jana news agency. Gaddafi in his letter said he will "accept any decision taken by the African Union. The Libyan strongman asked, "How could you attack those who are fighting the Al Qaeda."

Image: Muammar Gaddafi

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