Libyan rebels break siege of Misrata, demand more air support

Libyan rebels on June 13 broke through the Qaddafi-loyalist forces besieging Misrata and once again advanced toward Tripoli, some 140 miles to the east. Meanwhile, rebels are reported to have pushed Qaddafi's forces out of several villages in the Jebel Nafusa, the mountain range southwest of Tripoli, where they had been carrying on an offensive for weeks. If the advances from both Misrata and the Nafusa continue, Tripoli could be besieged by the rebels soon.

The rebels also gained a diplomatic boost, as the visiting the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said in Benghazi that the opposition government in power there is "the legitimate representative of the Libyan people." However, he stopped short of full diplomatic recognition of the Transitional National Council, as has the United States. Germany has refused to participate in the NATO air-strikes on Libya, and withheld its support for the UN resolution that authorized military action. (AP, June 13; The Telegraph, June 12)

Over the weekend, rebel commanders in Misrata have complained that NATO had ignored requests for air support during days of heavy attacks by the besieging Qaddafi forces. "We asked through the operations room in Benghazi for the Apaches [helicopters] to take part in the fight with Qaddafi troops but up to now we did not get any promise," said Fathi Bashaga, the rebels' official liaison to NATO. "What we expect from Nato is the introduction of their Apaches." (The Guardian, June 10)

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