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Libyan rebels clinch crucial deal to enter Bani Walid without fighting

(Xinhua)

14:24, September 06, 2011

TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Libyan rebels had clinched a crucial deal to enter the besieged city of Bani Walid without fighting, marking another setback for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

According to the Al Jazeera TV network, the deal was reached between the rebels and representatives from the town. Under the deal, the rebels will enter Ban Walid on Tuesday.

The latest development followed the rebels' announcement on Monday that talks over a peaceful handover of Bani Walid, 150 km southeast of Tripoli, had collapsed.

On Monday, Libyan rebels exchanged fire with pro-Gaddafi forces as they advanced closer to Bani Walid,a stronghold of the powerful Warfalla tribe, which made up the core of Gaddafi's army and was given top political posts within the regime.

The city, along with Sirte on the Mediterranean coast and Sabha deep in the Sahara desert, are Gaddafi's last pockets of support.

Saadi Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi's sons, said the failure of the talks was the fault of his high-profile brother Saif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court along with their father for suspected crimes against humanity during the unrest.

Saadi said that an "aggressive" speech broadcast by his brother a few days ago had led to the breakdown of the negotiations.

National Transitional Council (NTC) chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil urged Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte, Bani Walid and other cities to surrender within a week, saying that the NTC forces are capable of deploying troops in any city or town and they would use military means after "the end of this extension."

Gaddafi has vowed not to surrender and urged his loyalists to continue resistance.

Meanwhile, foreign countries are intensifying their diplomatic engagements with the North African country.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Monday that 23 Ukrainians detained in Libya, who were reportedly pro-Gaddafi snipers, were actually oil sector workers.

"Unfortunately, we are compelled to confirm that 23 Ukrainian citizens have been detained in Libya. All of them are civilian specialists who have arrived in Libya to work at oil-industry facilities," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshyn told a press briefing.

Media reports said earlier Monday that these Ukrainians detained by the NTC were working as Gaddafi's militants.

It is reported that about 500 Ukrainians are currently working in Libya, most of them doctors and nurses.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed Monday that Britain has re-established a diplomatic mission in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

"A diplomatic team, led by acting UK Special Representative Dominic Asquith, arrived in Tripoli today on a RAF flight," Hague told reporters.

He said the arrival of this team marked another significant step in Britain's relations with the new Libya, and reflected the progress the NTC has made in improving security and stability on the ground.

British Prime Minister David Cameron made a statement to Parliament Monday on the latest situation in Libya, affirming that Britain would continue supporting Libya and stressing that the task at hand of the international community is to support the reconstruction effort.

Cameron said Britain and its NATO allies would continue to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 for "as long as we are needed to protect civilian life."

Britain would also help Libyans bring Gaddafi to justice while providing other kinds of humanitarian aid, the prime minister said.

Algerian media reported Sunday that a number of military and intelligence officers of Gaddafi's regime had fled to the border with Algeria last week, but their request for entry was turned down by Algerian authorities.

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said Sunday he wants to build strong relations with Libya as soon as calm is restored there.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the BRICS group of emerging economies is dissatisfied with developments in war-ravaged Libya, where many civilians have been killed.8 At a press conference in Moscow Sunday, Lavrov said the main objective of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 in March was to protect the civilian population in Libya, yet civilians there were dying in large numbers.

He also said that Russia would maintain contact with the NTC and is ready to receive their representative for economic talks.

The head of NATO said Monday that remnants of Gaddafi's forces still posed threats to civilians and the military alliance would continue its operation in Libya as long as needed.

In addition, he stressed that Gaddafi, whose whereabouts remain unknown, was not a target of NATO's operation.


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