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LIBYA: Ras Lanuf still controlled by anti-government forces, rebel leaders say

March 10, 2011 | 11:28 am

The oil port of Ras Lanuf in eastern Libya was under heavy bombardment Thursday but remained in the hands of anti-government forces, according to leaders of the rebels, who were quoted by the Reuters news agency.

The information contradicts reports that Reuters said had aired on Libyan state television claiming that Kadafi loyalists had cleared Ras Lanuf of “armed gangs.” But Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the rebel National Libyan Council, told Reuters that “this is not accurate.”

“All we are seeing there is bombardment with heavy artillery from the sea and the air,” Ghoga said.

Another man who spoke to Reuters by phone from Ras Lanuf said the rebels had “total control of the city” and “the situation is fine, thank God.” The source noted that “light clashes” were continuing just west of Ras Lanuf.

The National Libyan Council was also keen for a no-fly zone to be imposed in order to prevent Kadafi from using warplanes to attack anti-government strongholds, primarily in the eastern part of the country, Reuters said.

“The Libyan people are facing genocide, the annihilation of an entire population through the use of air power and heavy artillery,” Reuters quoted Ghoga as saying. “This does not just threaten the security of Libya but that of the whole region.”

The rebel leader called on the United Nations Security Council to take necessary steps to stop “the carnage." He demanded a strike on camps where Kadafi’s mercenaries are said to be housed, and the bombing of roads used to transport military and security forces to the fighting.

While Britain and France favor a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone, Reuters reported that diplomats noted that the U.S. “had made clear they were not ready to press ahead with the measure.”

The rebel leader remained optimistic about the prospects of a no-fly zone eventually being imposed.

“We do expect that such a measure will be agreed in the coming days,” Ghoga said. “There are certain steps needed to secure it.”

-- Ann M. Simmons