International journalists were taken to a suburb in Libya‘s third largest city as part of a government escorted trip. Constant crackle of automatic fire could be heard, both close and in the distance, and rising smoke could be seen from several parts of the city.
Around Tripoli Street, in a suburb in the southern part of the city and under the control of pro-Gaddafi forces, soldiers manned checkpoints. About four pro-Gaddafi gunmen were visible on rooftops around the area where journalists were taken. Many buildings were riddled with bullet holes, windows were smashed and rubble from houses was visible. Burnt remnants of military and civilian vehicles, as well as fuel tanks, could be seen. There were few civilians inside and on the outskirts of the city. Some civilians came to where the journalists were. Women and children waved green flags. A resident said: “Misrata is ours, there are still some bad guys in other parts, but Gaddafi is winning, the city is ours.” Although rebels have made recent advances in the east, Misrata was the only city under their control in the west. International organisations have expressed concern about humanitarian conditions in the besieged city.
NATO was in the process of taking over command from the U.S.-led coalition after all 28 NATO allies agreed on the transfer on Sunday, Lt.Gen. Charles Bouchard, commander of NATO’s military operations in Libya, said at the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy. ” The transition would take a couple of days,” said Bouchard.
President Barack Obama on Monday delivered a major speech on the administration policy toward Libya, claiming the U.S. military intervention was to avoid civilian casualties in the North African country instead of “regime change”. Facing mounting domestic and international criticism for his ambiguous military policy in Libya recently, Obama’s speech was aimed at easing the criticism.
At present, how the military intervention will end remains unknowable at this stage, experts said, and critics fault Obama for not providing an outline of what comes next. In his 27-minute speech delivered at National Defense University, Obama defended U.S. involvement in Libya, saying the intervention was to safeguard “interests and values” of the United States. “When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.” “The United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners.”
Meanwhile, Obama said broadening the military mission in Libya to include “regime change” would be a mistake.
Oil prices hovered below $104 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as traders eyed gains by Libyan rebels seeking to topple Moammar Gaddafi and restart crude exports from the OPEC nation. Oil prices have come off near two-year highs above $106 last week after coalition bombing pushed back Gaddafi forces and allowed rebels to retake key oil ports. Fighting is expected to become more fierce as rebels approach Gaddafi stronghold Tripoli, the capital.
In Review: Hotdogfish
- Rebels push west before Libya crisis talks (reuters.com)