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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Molly Hennessy-Fiske

LIBYA: Push to unfreeze Libyan assets

Berlusconi
United Nations Security Council diplomats said Thursday that South Africa would probably drop its opposition to unfreezing $1.5 billion in Libyan assets in U.S. banks, according to the Associated Press.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been taking place behind closed doors in New York.

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LIBYA: IOM helps hundreds evacuate Tripoli

Evac
The International Organization for Migration has begun spiriting foreign evacuees out of the Libyan capital.

The aid group chartered a boat Thursday, which later headed for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to the east.

The boat, which had been anchored off the Tripoli coast since Tuesday night, was finally able to dock late Thursday morning after security conditions at the port improved.

The migrants had been brought to the port area from various parts of the city with the help of  embassies and other parties, IOM officials said in a statement Thursday.

The group of about 200 foreigners being evacuated Thursday included Egyptians, Filipinos, Canadians, Algerians, Moroccans and an Italian, the statement said.

The boat also carried IOM medical staff.

Upon arrival in Benghazi, the evacuees were to be taken to a transit center where accommodations have been arranged, the statement said. They would then be transported by IOM to the Egyptian border at Salloum and returned to their home countries.

"It has not been easy to do this operation. We never expected it to be. Nevertheless, there is a huge sense of relief that all our efforts are in the end helping these migrants," said Pasquale Lupoli, IOM regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. "However, IOM reiterates its call to all parties to allow migrants safe passage to the port. This issue remains a major challenge in any further evacuations of migrants from Tripoli."

Fear of fighting, looting, sniper fire and checkpoints have prevented would-be evacuees from leaving their homes to reach the port area, the IOM said.

A second IOM-chartered boat capable of transporting many more evacuees is due to arrive over the weekend, the statement said.

Several thousand people have registered with the IOM for evacuation assistance.

RELATED:

Boat carrying migrants from Libya capsizes; 200 feared dead

LIBYA: Thousands of migrant workers flee for their lives

Libyan rebels accused of targeting blacks

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Foreigners register before boarding an International Organization for Migration boat in war-torn Tripoli for evacuation to the rebel center of Benghazi in the east on Thursday. Credit: Charles Onions/AFP/Getty Images.

 

LIBYA: Corinthia Hotel:The new Rixos?

Hotel

Tripoli’s five-star Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel, where numerous foreign journalists were based in recent days, came under attack Thursday.

“Heavy shooting is going on in central Tripoli just at the doorstep of our hotel. Street battle. Sniper fire. Hotel under gunfire attack,” an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported in a brief email.

“Update as soon as safe. Can’t keep filing from rooftop.”

The exchange of gunfire between rebels and Moammar Kadafi loyalists lasted about 40 minutes, ending about 2:30 p.m., another AFP correspondent said.

On a rooftop about 300 yards from the luxury hotel, a green Kadafi flag was raised. A rebel said there were snipers on a nearby rooftop, “but we haven’t yet managed to find them.”

Meanwhile, rebel pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns converged on the hotel. Fighters carrying small arms and rocket launchers took over the top floor of the hotel, which overlooks the surrounding neighborhood, Tripoli's Old City.

Chance The hotel is about three miles from the now famous Rixos Hotel, where about 40 journalists were freed Wednesday after being held hostage for three days by Kadafi guards.

CNN's Matthew Chance and some of the others were seen embracing in the lobby of the Corinthia, where they later joined other journalists.

Gunfire aside, it was quite a step up.

Situated on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Corinthia (part of an international chain) features a massive outdoor pool, a few posh restaurants (Italian, French, Moroccan) and is within walking distance of Green Square. now known as Martyr's Square.

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MALTA: Libyan ambassador claims he was a double agent

Malta Libya's ambassador to Malta said he worked as a double agent in recent months, preventing the Kadafi regime from receiving resources and support and conveying infomation to rebel leaders.

Ambassador Saadun Suayeh told Malta Today that he is “relieved” to be able to finally talk about the covert role he played supporting the rebel effort against Moammar Kadafi during the last six months.

Suayeh said he stayed on as ambassador after the uprising started in February because of the access he had to upper-level intelligence and resources.

At one point, he said Kadafi's government sent two "diplomats" to visit him -- minders who would report back on him to the capital.

Suayeh said he had secret meetings with representatives of the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council, in which they "shared information and worked on strategies on the way forward," he told the Malta Today reporter.

The ambassador said he never met the two Libyan air force volonels who flew their Mirage fighter jets to Malta last February, defecting from Kadafi's forces.

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LIBYA: Underground holding cell discovered, rebels say [Video]

 

Libyan rebels claimed to have discovered an underground holding cell Thursday at the Mitiga military base outside Tripoli as Moammar Kadafi remained at large.

The supposed holding cell appears in video posted online Thursday by the Feb17 Voices group sympathetic to the rebel cause. It is titled, "Tyrant's prisons in the underground base Ameitikh."

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ALGERIA: In no hurry to recognize Libyan rebel government

Algiers Algeria will not recognize Libyan rebels' new government until it makes a strong commitment to fight Al Qaeda in North Africa, an Algerian government source told Reuters.

The high-ranking source, who asked not to be identified, also said Algeria, a U.S. ally in the campaign against Al Qaeda, had evidence that Libyan militants it had handed over to Moammar Kadafi's government are now at large in Libya and some have joined the rebels.

“There is proof that Libyan Islamists who were delivered by Algeria to Tripoli have managed to flee and join the rebels. We even saw one of them on Al Jazeera television, speaking in the name of the NTC,” said the source, referring to the rebels' National Transitional Council government.

More than 30 countries recognize the NTC as the legitimate representative of Libya.

The Algerian press has carried reports [link in French] about ongoing fighting in Tripoli.

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LIBYA: New government may request U.N., foreign police

Streets Libya’s rebel leadership may seek international assistance in establishing policing in the nation, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a Thursday briefing, according to Bloomberg reports.

Nuland said that at Thursday's meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Istanbul, participants discussed the security needs of the rebel’s fledgling government, the National Transitional Council.

Nuland said the council is “unlikely to request a formal peacekeeping force,” but may request international and United Nations help in support of its policing needs.

“Precisely what it may ask for is still to be determined,” Nuland said.

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TURKEY: Opposition calls for Kadafi surrender, unfreezing Libyan assets

Istanbul
The Libya Contact Group of international powers issued a statement in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday urging embattled Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi to turn himself in to avoid further bloodshed.

The group, which met in Istanbul earlier in the day, includes members of Libya's rebel leadership, the National Transitional Council, as well as senior diplomats opposed to Kadafi's rule.

They issued a 14-point statement, excerpts of which were posted online by Reuters, also urged the United Nations Security Council to pass a U.S.-supported resolution currently under discussion to unfreeze Libyan assets so that they could free up the assets in an “expedited” manner.

RELATED:

LIBYA: Kadafi hideout reportedly found

LIBYA: Rebels claim Kadafi, son surrounded

LIBYA: Kadafi spokesman says strongman remains in Libya

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: From left, Fatih Mohammed Baja, adviser of political affairs to head of National Transitional Council of Libya; Khalid Al Ghaith, United Arab Emirates assistant minister for the Department of Economic Affairs; Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu; and Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway attend the Political Directors meeting during a Libya Contact Group summit in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday. Credit: Mustafa Ozer / Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

 

LIBYA: Rebels search Kadafi tunnels, bunker

Tunnels1
Libyan rebel gunmen forced their way into tunnels under Moammar Kadafi's Tripoli compound Thursday after battling loyalists above ground.

Some reports suggest the maze of tunnels could stretch for miles.

The rebels descended from the Bab Azizia complex and began searching the labyrinth of air-conditioned tunnels for clues as photographers and an Al Jazeera crew tagged along. Pretty soon they found a bunker stocked with food, supplies, beds and gas masks.

Tunnels2 The rebels told reporters they believe Kadafi used the bunker at some point during the conflict.

Carrying AK-47s and moving slowly through the tunnels, the rebels opened heavy doors, exposing dozens of vents -- but not the missing 69-year-old leader.

Concerned about booby traps and possible ambushes, the rebels eventually stopped and retraced their steps back through the tunnels.

Although some rebel leaders claimed to have Kadafi surrounded in buildings near Bab Azizia, his whereabouts remained unclear late Thursday.

RELATED:

LIBYA: Kadafi spokesman says strongman remains in Libya

LIBYA: Rebels claim Kadafi, son surrounded

LIBYA: Kadafi hideout reportedly found

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Top photo: Libyans gather Thursday at the opening to a tunnel at Moammar Kadafi's Bab Azizia compound in Tripoli. Credit: Patrick Baz / AFP / Getty Images

Bottom photo: A rebel fighter explores a tunnel under Moammar Kadafi's compound in Tripoli on Thursday. Credit: Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press

 

LIBYA: New Kadafi radio statement airs

Kadaffiglasses Moammar Kadafi has surfaced--but only on the radio.

In comments that aired moments ago on Al Arabiya and other Arab stations, Kadafi called on Libyans to “destroy” rebels who have overtaken Tripoli and forced his regime into hiding, according to the Associated Press.

The appeal comes as intense fighting has erupted in the Libyan capital, with some rebels claiming to have Kadafi and one of his sons surrounded in some buildings near his ransacked Bab Azizia complex.

RELATED:

LIBYA: Kadafi spokesman says strongman remains in Libya

LIBYA: Rebels claim Kadafi, son surrounded

LIBYA: Kadafi hideout reportedly found

 --Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi attends a wreath-laying ceremony in the Belarus capital of Minsk on Nov. 3, 2008. In a Thursday audio statement broadcast by Arab-language television networks, Kadafi called on Libyans to "destroy" rebels who have overtaken Tripoli and forced his regime into hiding. Credit: Sergei Grits/Associated Press.

LIBYA: Rebels in Tripoli may have Kadafi surrounded

Kadafigun
An intense battle erupted late Thursday in Tripoli as rebels surrounded some buildings where they believe embattled leader Moammar Kadafi may be hiding.

About 1,000 rebels surrounded two buildings filled with Kadafi loyalists in the neighborhood next to the Libyan leader's captured Bab Azizia compound, according to the Associated Press.

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LIBYA: Kadafi spokesman says strongman remains in Libya

Ibrahim A spokesman for Moammar Kadafi told the Associated Press on Thursday that Kadafi was still in Libya.

Kadafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told an Associated Press reporter by phone that Kadafi is safe and healthy and that his morale is high.

Ibrahim also said the 69-year-old was leading the fight against the rebels.

Kadafi “is indeed leading the battle for our freedom and independence every day,” Ibrahim said.

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