Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Libyan Rebels Welcome U.K. Military Assistance Amid Stalemate

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan rebels struggling to topple Muammar Qaddafi's 42-year-old regime welcomed the U.K.'s decision to send military advisers to help them gain an edge in their fight as NATO's air campaign remains beset by limitations.

The British government said yesterday it's sending officers to assist the rebels' communications and logistics. France will also send military advisers to Libya, the BBC reported, without saying where it got the information. French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets today in Paris with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of Libya's Interim Transitional National Council.

"We have a unique opportunity here -- tens of thousands of young people who are fighting or who want to fight," Salwa Bugaighis, a leader in the opposition's Feb. 17 Coalition, said in an interview in Benghazi. "If they feel their efforts are going nowhere, that they are not given the proper training and command to fight effectively, they will lose their enthusiasm and that will make it harder to finish with Qaddafi."

Rebels were pushed back this month from the oil port of Brega under a barrage of artillery fire east to Ajdabiya, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The opposition forces have failed to take and hold territory along Libya's Mediterranean coast, or to capitalize on air strikes that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says have destroyed more than a third of Qaddafi's military.

'Step Backwards'

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi said the military presence by a foreign power in Libya would be a "step backwards." In a BBC interview, he called for a cease-fire along the lines of an African Union-sponsored plan and a period to establish a dialogue on revamping the Libyan political system.


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