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http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2011/0411/Road-map-to-Libya-peace-comes-as-both-sides-show-signs-of-fatigue

Johannesburg, South Africa

Libyan rebels are studying a truce proposal from the African Union, a day after Libya’s embattled President Muammar Qaddafi signaled that he would be willing to explore a cease-fire to allow humanitarian organizations access to civilians caught in the crossfire.

The AU’s proposed “road map” to peace comes at a time when both Mr. Qaddafi’s forces and the rebels have shown signs of fatigue, with battlefield gains by one quickly erased by the other. A long-term settlement is still far off, as rebels say the only way they’ll agree to open discussions with the regime is if Qaddafi’s forces retreat and if Qaddafi himself steps down. Yet even if the cease-fire proves to be temporary, the AU’s efforts may help to quiet criticism of the AU as ineffective in times of conflict.

“This has significance beyond Libya,” says Steven Friedman, a senior political observer and head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg. “Five years ago, some of the responses we are seeing today would not have been possible. We are now at the stage where the AU is willing to step in and intervene in a conflict.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

Presidential panel

A panel of five African presidents, including South African President Jacob Zuma, flew to Tripoli on Sunday to propose the cease-fire on humanitarian grounds, urging both sides to explore dialogue that would lead to a peaceful settlement.

The AU presidents also urged NATO to stop its air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces, a campaign that was itself backed by the United Nations Security Council in the interests of protecting civilians against Qaddafi’s use of heavy weapons in urban areas.

By organizing talks in Libya, the AU is taking back responsibility for resolving conflicts that many African leaders see as having been taken away from them when the UN Security Council approved a “no fly zone” in the spirit of protecting civilians.

In addition to its work in Libya, the AU has also been active in trying to broker peace talks in Ivory Coast, albeit with much less success so far. The AU has sent several high-level delegations to persuade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and President-elect Alassane Ouattara to support a cease-fire and explore the possibility of a power-sharing government. Both men claim to have won the Nov. 28, 2010, runoff elections, although Mr. Ouattara’s claim has the benefit of broad support from the international community as well as the Ivory Coast’s own independent electoral commission.

‘Libyans must decide’

In Tripoli on Monday, the AU commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters that “it’s not up to any outside force, even the African Union itself, to decide on the behalf of the Libyan people on who the leader of the country should be.”

President Zuman of South Africa portrayed Qaddafi’s acceptance of the proposed “road map” to peace as a victory for the AU, and urged NATO to curb its aerial attacks.

“[Qaddafi’s] delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” Zuma said after meeting Qaddafi. “We have to give cease-fire a chance.”

But analysts caution against a plan that Qaddafi could see as bolstering his long-term prospects.

“If the deal is simply intended to allow humanitarian relief to have access, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with that,” adds Mr. Friedman. “The fear is that this will be an attempt to prop him [Qaddafi] up and keep him in power.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110408/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nato_libya

By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press 10 mins ago

BRUSSELS – NATO acknowledged Friday that its airstrikes had hit rebels using tanks to fight government forces in eastern Libya, saying no one told them the rebels used tanks.

British Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the NATO operation, said in the past, only forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi had used heavy armored vehicles.

Harding says the rebels and government troops are engaged in a series of advances and retreats between the eastern coastal towns of Brega and Ajdabiya, making it difficult for pilots to distinguish between them.

NATO jets attacked a rebel convoy between these two towns Thursday, killing at least five fighters and destroying or damaging a number of armored vehicles.

“It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in (rebel) deaths,” Harding told reporters in Naples, where the alliance’s operational center is located.

“I am not apologizing,” he said. “The situation on the ground was and remains extremely fluid, and until yesterday we did not have information that (rebel) forces are using tanks.”

The strikes, including an attack earlier this week, provoked angry denunciations of NATO by the rebels. At the same time, NATO officials have expressed frustration with the Libyan insurgents, who now view the alliance, whose mandate is limited to protecting civilians in Libya, as their proxy air force.

NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, however, expressed regret over the loss of life, saying alliance forces were doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

NATO last week took control over the international airstrikes that began March 19 as a U.S.-led mission. The airstrikes thwarted Gadhafi’s efforts to crush the rebellion in the North African nation he has ruled for more than four decades, but the rebels remain outnumbered and outgunned and have had difficulty pushing into government-held territory even with air support.

Harding said Friday that NATO jets had conducted 318 sorties and struck 23 targets across Libya in the past 48 hours. They have flown over 1,500 sorties in the eight days since the alliance assumed overall command from a U.S.-led force.

NATO’s jets have destroyed Gadhafi’s anti-aircraft missile defenses, T-72 tanks and ammunition dumps, Harding said. The attacks also targeted Gadhafi’s loyalist forces in the besieged city of Misrata, where rebels continue to hold out.

Critics have questioned NATO’s limited strategy of only protecting civilians threatened by Gadhafi’s troops, rather than trying to eliminate the threat completely by destroying the strongman’s regime.

“By not striking at the regime from the outset, Gadhafi was granted the initiative to embed his forces in urban settings hiding behind human shields in a form of guerrilla warfare,” said Barack Seneer, a researcher on the Middle East at the Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank.

“A no-fly zone is not equipped to contend with guerrilla warfare or with a stalemate that places rebels and loyalists at close proximity with one another.” he said

Despite the attacks on anti-aircraft sites, Gadhafi’s forces still pose a danger for NATO warplanes. They retain radars and surface-to-air missiles, as well as automatic cannons and shoulder-launched missiles that can hit planes at altitudes up to 5,000 meters (15,000 feet).

Over the past week, Gadhafi’s forces had switched tactics by leaving their heavy armor behind and using only light trucks armed with heavy machine guns and fast-firing anti-aircraft cannons on the front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya. These have proven very effective in disrupting repeated rebel attempts to push west toward Tripoli, but Gadhafi’s forces have not been able to drive the rebels back toward Benghazi or establish a solid front line in that sector.

“These trucks cannot hold ground,” Harding said. “When you see their tanks coming up, those are the vehicles that can cause the greatest harm to civilians.”

On Thursday, the situation in that sector “was very confusing, vehicles going back and forth,” he said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110407/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya_anchorwoman

By DIAA HADID and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Diaa Hadid And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press Thu Apr 7, 7:54 am ET

TRIPOLI, Libya – Hala Misrati once wrote romance tales about lost love. Now she’s the ferocious face of Libya’s regime, a star talk-show host on state TV lashing out daily against Moammar Gadhafi’s enemies.

She railed against a Libyan woman who claimed to Western journalists she had been raped by Gadhafi militiamen, calling her a “liar” and suggesting she was a “whore.” On live TV, Misrati grilled an arrested journalist for an hour with all the doggedness of a secret police interrogator.

“Say the things that you said in your recordings!” she barked at the journalist, Rana al-Aqbani, apparently referring to taped recordings of al-Aqbani’s phone calls, as she tried to make her acknowledge that she sought Gadhafi’s ouster. Al-Aqbani, a Tripoli-based journalist, has since disappeared.

With her attack-dog demeanor, Misrati stands out even in the field of presenters of state-run news channels throughout Arab countries, whose autopilot response has been to denounce protesters in the anti-government uprisings around the Middle East.

“She’s clearly a very strong mouthpiece for the pro-Gadhafi forces,” said Dina Eltahawy, a researcher for Amnesty International, which has issued an urgent alert to try find al-Aqbani.

Misrati appears daily on her hour-long call-in show, “Libya on This Day” on the state-run satellite channel, Al-Jamahiriya 2.

In her 30s, with long dark hair, heavy makeup and often decked out in gaudy outfits, she often gives long monologues crusading against Libya’s rebels, the NATO-led alliance bombing Gadhafi troops from the air and anyone perceived of sympathizing with them or fueling the campaign against Gadhafi. That includes Western media and, particularly, the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, which she refers to as “the pig channel” in a rhyming play on words — the Arabic word for pig is “khanzeera.”

Libya’s crisis has made her a star — beloved by Gadhafi supporters and viewed with a mix of loathing and bemused fascination by the opposition.

Miriam al-Amani, a 23-year-old student in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, called Misrati “a clown.”

She said Misrati was not well known before, but her new incarnation since the uprising made her famous. “Now she’s well known. Everyone in Libya knows who she is,” al-Amani said with a laugh. “She lies so badly that nobody believes what she says,” added al-Amani, who studies medicine at Benghazi’s Garyounis University.

In contrast, an upper-class woman having tea with friends at a five-star hotel in the capital Tripoli was full of praise for Misrati.

“Libya runs through her veins,” said the woman, a Gadhafi supporter. “She is bold. She has been able to show the truth in Benghazi and tell us what it’s really like over there, no one else was brave enough to tell it how it is.” The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because her husband holds a job in the state.

In one show, Misrati blasted Libya’s U.N. ambassador, Mohamed Shalgham, who turned against Gadhafi, calling him “ignorant” and “an idiot” and saying “he is good for nothing but barking like a dog.”

In another, she said the prominent Qatar-based Muslim cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi was “the devil” after he criticized Misrati. “Al-Qaradawi is too stupid to judge me or (Libya’s) press,” she coolly said.

Her fiercest diatribe came against Iman al-Obeidi, a Libyan woman who last month burst into a Tripoli hotel where Western journalists are staying and told them she had been gang-raped by troops before security officials dragged her out.

“Iman, in the end, is a liar,” Misrati said in a 10-minute rant, accusing al-Obeidi of pulling a media stunt. She dismissed her claims, saying no Arab woman would bring shame on her family by publicly admitting to rape. She told viewers that it was rebels who were raping women in the eastern territories they control. Misrati urged al-Obeidi to come clean with the truth because her claims were fueling the “bombardment” of Libya.

“Even sometimes a whore has nationalism toward her homeland, when she knows her homeland is in danger!” Misrati sneered. “Even a whore!”

Misrati has since vowed to “uncover” al-Obeidi’s real life.

She aired footage of a later attempt to interview al-Obeidi. Misrati’s film crew taunts the woman, who is seen curled up on the ground and refuses to be interviewed. It ends suddenly with Misrati screaming at al-Obeidi, “You and your kind have frittered away this country!”

Days later, Misrati conducted an interrogation on live television of al-Aqbani, a Syrian-Libyan journalist who the rights group Amnesty International said was snatched from her Tripoli home along with her brother by plainclothes gunmen on March 28.

Misrati accused her of helping prompt the international air campaign with her reports. As the defiant al-Aqbani tried to explain herself, Misrati interjected, “Sometimes a person lives in a fantasy … But when you take fantasy outside (your head), without realizing, you pass on rumors and mistakes, and we pay the price of those mistakes under shelling.”

Misrati later reassured her viewers that al-Aqbani wont be put to death. “She and her friends are not the head of the snake. Maybe the tail.”

Eltahawy of Amnesty International said the whereabouts of al-Aqbani and her brother remains unknown.

Opponents relish in posting YouTube videos of her bloopers. In one famous misstep, she insisted that Muslims could not accept the U.N.’s move to “adopt” the resolution authorizing airstrikes over Libya, because Islam bans adoption — of children.

Misrati’s launch as a fierce defender of Gadhafi’s regime is all the more striking considering her past. In 2009, she was pulled off air during a live interview and interrogated by security officers, according to a report on the incident by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli released on the WikiLeaks site.

Misrati was interviewing Mustafa Zaidi, a senior member of the Revolutionary committees, a quasi-pro-Gadhafi paramilitary group. Although Misrati “downplayed” the incident, she “criticized the strictures placed on journalists in Libya by reactionary regime figures,” according to the embassy report.

She began on TV only three years ago, according to her Internet resume.

Before that, she was an aspiring writer. She published a collection of short stories in 2007, “The Moon Has Another Face.” A review by an Internet magazine Middle-East-Online praises the collection for Misrati’s “humane honesty” and describes the woman who “is angry like a child about the lies of others.”

Her lengthy blog — untouched since December — is a mix of personal reflections, essays about the Internet (with a law degree, she is a self-professed expert on cyber law) and short stories on lost love.

“I watched the movement of the clouds, with the sun hiding ominously behind them, annihilating the heavy rain,” one of her stories begins, before tumbling into a tale of a woman disappointed in marriage.

The title of a series of entries on her blog even holds a bit of philosophy about how changeable life can be — like her surprising leap from writer to regime celebrity.

“Between today and tomorrow is chaos,” it reads.

________

Hadid reported from Cairo. AP correspondent Ben Hubbard in Benghazi contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110309/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Riaz Khan, Associated Press 5 mins ago

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A suicide bomber struck a funeral attended by anti-Taliban militiamen in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 36 mourners and wounding more than 100 in the deadliest militant attack in the country this year. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.

The blast near the city of Peshawar was not far from the tribally administered regions bordering Afghanistan where militants are at their strongest. The area struck is home to several tribal armies that battle the Pakistani branches of the Taliban with the government’s encouragement.

Police officer Zahid Khan said about 300 people were attending the funeral for the wife of a militiaman in the Matani area when the bomber struck. TV footage showed men picking up bloodied sandals and caps from a dusty, open space where mourners had gathered.

Witnesses said the bomber, who appeared to be in his late teens, showed up at the funeral just as it was about to begin.

“We thought this youth was coming to attend the funeral, but he suddenly detonated a bomb,” survivor Syed Alam Khan said.

Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said the insurgents targeted the militiamen because they were allied with the Pakistani government and, effectively, the United States.

“We will carry out more such attacks if they did not stop their activities,” he said via phone from an undisclosed location.

Militia commander Dilawar Khan said he would consult his fighters and local elders about whether to keep battling the Taliban, insisting that the government did not provide them with the resources they need.

Another witness, Farman Ullah, complained that there was no police security in place for the funeral.

“It was the duty of the government to provide us security, but it did not do it,” he said.

The main hospital in Peshawar received at least 36 bodies and more than 100 wounded after the blast, hospital official Jamal Shah said.

Al-Qaida and Taliban militants are waging a bloody war against the Pakistani state from their bases in the northwest. The army has launched several offensives against the Islamist extremists but has also encouraged the formation of private militias to help out in the fight.

While human rights groups are alarmed at the state ceding authority to armed civilians, the government has praised the role of the militias in battling the Taliban or holding ground retaken from them.

Police in Peshawar said late last year that the militias in Matani were essential in stopping Taliban infiltration into the city.

The militiamen operate from heavily fortified compounds in the region and have seen their influence rise. But commanders have complained they do not get enough government help.

The army says it is winning the war against militants, but bombings still regularly strike in much of the country. On Tuesday, at least 20 people were killed in a car bombing in Punjab province.

Also Wednesday, police in Pakistan’s largest city said they had arrested four Pakistani Taliban militants after a tip and a shootout, but four alleged insurgents managed to escape. The militants were believed to be planning attacks in Karachi, a southern city of 18 million, senior police official Mohammad Aslam said.

Police showed reporters four hooded men who they said were the suspects. They also displayed an explosives-laden sucide jacket, assault rifles and other weapons they said they recovered late Tuesday.

Karachi has a history of sectarian, political and ethnic violence. Officials say Pakistani Taliban fighters, who tend to be based in the northwest, increasingly use Karachi as a hide-out.

In the country’s southwest, a landmine exploded next to a vehicle in Dera Bugti area of southwestern Baluchistan province, killing five people and wounding 18, government official Shoaib Jadoon said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. But Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency which wants the province to have more autonomy and a greater share of the money derived from its natural resources.

____

Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Ashraf Khan in Karachi and Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.

Ya’ll read this and tell me what you think.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110307/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

By PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press Paul Schemm, Associated Press 2 hrs 7 mins ago

RAS LANOUF, Libya – Libyan warplanes launched fresh airstrikes on rebel positions around a key oil port Monday, trying to block the opposition fighters from advancing toward Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold in the capital, Tripoli.

Rebels in the area said they can take on Gadhafi’s elite ground forces, but are outgunned if he uses his air power.

“We don’t want a foreign military intervention, but we do want a no-fly zone,” said rebel fighter Ali Suleiman. He added that the rebels can take on “the rockets and the tanks, but not Gadhafi’s air force.”

Libya appears to be sliding toward a civil war that could drag out for weeks, or even months, as rebels try to oust Gadhafi after 41 years. Resorting to heavy use of air attacks signaled the regime’s concern that it needed to check the advance of the rebel force toward Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown and stronghold.

Anti-Gadhafi forces would get a massive morale boost if they captured Sirte, and it would clear a major obstacle on the march toward the gates of Tripoli.

There were no casualties in Monday’s airstrike on Ras Lanouf, which came one day after pro-regime forces pounded opposition fighters with helicopter gunships, artillery and rockets to stop the rebels’ rapid advance toward Tripoli.

Mohamad Samir, an army colonel fighting with the rebels, said his forces are expecting reinforcements from the east.

The uprising against Gadhafi, which began Feb. 15, is already longer and much bloodier than the relatively quick revolts that overthrew the longtime authoritarian leaders of neighboring Egypt and Tunisia.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

A government spokesman, Abdel-Majid al-Dursi, denied rumors that there had been an assassination attempt against Gadhafi, saying the claims are “baseless rumors.” The speculation started Sunday, when residents in the capital awoke before dawn to the crackle of unusually heavy and sustained gunfire.

Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya’s uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it near impossible to get an accurate tally. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers. The exodus is creating a humanitarian crisis across the border with Tunisia — another North African country in turmoil after an uprising in January that ousted its longtime leader.

The turmoil is being felt more broadly still in the form of rising oil prices. Libya’s oil production has been seriously crippled by the unrest.

The conflict in Libya took a turn late last week when government opponents, backed by mutinous army units and armed with weaponry seized from storehouses, went on the offensive. At the same time, pro-Gadhafi forces have conducted counteroffensives to try to retake the towns and oil ports the rebels have captured since they moved out of the rebel-held east.

An opposition force estimated at 500 to 1,000 fighters has been cutting a path west toward Tripoli. On the way, they secured control of two important oil ports at Brega and Ras Lanouf.

In and around the government-held town of Bin Jawwad, on the road to Sirte, pro-regime forces were running patrols Monday and there were minor reports of skirmishes with rebels on the outskirts. On Sunday, battles there killed eight people and wounded 59, said Ibrahim Said, deputy director of Ajdabiya hospital.

If the rebels continue to advance, even slowly, Gadhafi’s heavy dependence on air power could prompt the West to try to hurriedly enforce a no-fly zone over the country. The U.N. has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and the U.S. has moved military forces closer to its shores to back up its demand that Gadhafi step down.

Enforcing a no-fly zone could take weeks to organize, however, and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has noted that it must be preceded by a military operation to take out Libya’s air defenses. British Foreign Minister William Hague said Sunday that a no-fly zone over Libya is still in an early stage of planning and ruled out the use of ground forces.

As fighting across Libya grew more fierce, the international community appeared to be struggling to put military muscle behind its demands for Gadhafi to give up power.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke to Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa on Sunday, and called for an end to hostilities, according to a U.N. statement, which said Kusa agreed to the immediate dispatch of a humanitarian assessment team to Tripoli.

Valerie Amos, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement that the Benghazi Red Crescent reported that Misrata was under attack by government forces.

“Humanitarian organizations need urgent access now,” she said. “People are injured and dying and need help immediately.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, has discretely begun contacts with Libya’s provisional transitional national council to find out about the rebels’ intentions.

Suleiman, the rebel fighter, said his forces are waiting for reinforcements in Ras Lanouf.

“The orders are to stay here and guard the refinery, because oil is what makes the world go round,” Suleiman said.

Seriouly, Gadhafi needs to step down, but of course he wont until something happens. So ya’ll tell me what you think.

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