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Hugo Chavez….Gadhafi’s only friend

Venezuela’s Chavez says US, NATO preparing for war in Libya, warns it would be madness

By Jorge Rueda, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned Friday that it would be madness for the United States and its NATO allies to go to war in Libya to try to topple Moammar Gadhafi.

Chavez, a friend and ally of Gadhafi, criticized President Barack Obama for expressing support for the Libyan opposition.

“Right now they are preparing a war, the Yankees and their NATO allies,” Chavez said in a televised speech.

He predicted a larger war in Libya could push world oil prices to $200 a barrel, and he echoed Gadhafi’s warnings that a foreign military intervention would unleash much more bloodshed.

“If the Yankees (attempt) the madness of invading Libya — Gadhafi already said it a few days ago — it would be a new Vietnam,” Chavez said.

The Venezuelan president has proposed forming a “humanitarian commission” to travel to Libya to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

His stance has been echoed by Latin American allies including Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia. But other countries have dismissed Chavez’s mediation idea, and rebels in Libya have not expressed willingness to negotiate as long as Gadhafi remains in power.

Obama said Friday in Washington that the U.S. and the world community are “slowly tightening the noose” on Gadhafi. It was not clear what next steps Obama might be willing to take, but he said he was considering all options, including military efforts with NATO partners.

“Today I saw Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, saying that he’s concerned about the price of oil,” Chavez said.

Chavez has accused the U.S. of manoeuvring to seize control of Libya’s oil. He said he believes events in Libya are being distorted to lay the groundwork for a conflict, and likened it to the situation inVenezuela in 2002 when he survived a failed coup.

“In its desperation, the Yankee empire is continuing and will continue to threaten nations that struggle for their dignity … conspiring against governments,” Chavez said.

He said his proposal for a peace effort would respect “the self-determination and freedom of Libya, which is a sister nation.”

As for the conflict raging in Libya, Chavez said: “That’s a matter the Libyans should resolve.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/venezuelas-chavez-says-us-nato-preparing-war-libya-20110311-192809-608.html

 

 

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Will the US intervene in Libya?

Libya poses stern test of Obama’s doctrine of military intervention to protect civilians

By Bradley Klapper,Matthew Lee, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – Preparing for the prospect of deeper international intervention, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron conferred Tuesday on the spectrum of military and humanitarian responses to Libya’s worsening civil strife. The British leader bluntly said after the talk that the world cannot stand aside and let Moammar Gadhafi brutalize his people.

In weighing the options, the Obama administration underscored that any authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya must come from the Security Council at the United Nations.

“We think it’s important that the United Nations make this decision — not the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Britain’s Sky News. The comment reflected Obama’s thinking that any action intended to halt Libya’s violence must carry the legitimacy and strength of an international coalition.

Obama’s top national security advisers were to meet Wednesday at the White House to outline what steps are realistic to pressure Gadhafi to end the violence and leave power, officials said. Clinton, national security adviser Tom Donilon and CIA chief Leon Panetta are among those expected to attend as Obama’s team centred in on recommendations for him. The president himself was not expected to attend.

Obama and Cameron agreed to press ahead on potential responses from the U.S. and its NATO allies, including the creation of a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace to keep Gadhafi from bombarding the rebels seeking to oust him from power, according to statements released from their offices. Other options including steeper surveillance, humanitarian assistance and enforcement of an arms embargo as Libya slips from Gadhafi’s grip and into a civil war.

“We have got to prepare for what we might have to do if he (Gadhafi) goes on brutalizing his own people,” Cameron told the BBC.

Cameron said his call with Obama was to talk “about the planning we have to do in case this continues and in case he does terrible things to his own people.” The prime minister added: “I don’t think we can stand aside and let that happen.”

Libya’s rebel movement has been countered by overwhelming power from loyalists to Gadhafi. Pro-regime forces halted its drive on Tripoli with a heavy barrage of rockets in the east and threatened on Tuesday to recapture the closest rebel-held city to the capital in the west.

The continuing violence increased pressure, from NATO toWashington, for intervention.

Rebels are fighting to oust Gadhafi from power after more than 41 years, and his bloody crackdown has left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead. Libya’s U.N. ambassador, who broke with Gadhafi, has urged the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone to prevent Gadhafi’s forces from bombing civilians. Britain and France are drafting a resolution, but no decision has been made.

The United States has acted itself and worked with world partners to impose sanctions on the Libyan regime and freeze its assets.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Tuesday that the creation of a no-fly zone could help hasten Gadhafi’s exit.

“Every day and every hour that goes by, innocent Libyans are being attacked and massacred from the air,” McCain said. “I also worry about additional actions that Gadhafi could take such as bombing oil facilities, which could have extreme environmental consequences.”

Earlier in the day, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain pressed senior the secretary of the Navy, the chief of Naval Operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps about U.S. military equipment in the region and how difficult it would be to impose a no-fly zone. The witnesses described Libya’s air defence as “modest” but insisted that combat operations would be a precursor to any action.

In order to ground the Libyan air force, thereby providing air cover for the rebels, U.S. and partner aircraft would first attack Libya’s anti-aircraft defences.

Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that imposing a no-fly zone would be a costly “act of war.”

“The United States should not, in my view, launch military intervention into yet another Muslim country without thinking long and hard about the consequences and implications,” Lugar said.

The White House meeting of the president’s highest security advisers on Wednesday will examine the ramifications of a no-fly zone over Libya and potential military options, although the final decision will rest with Obama, officials said.

A highly visible show of force could involve U.S. ships moving into the Gulf of Sidra and lingering in international waters, which would be about 14 miles off shore. Other options include greater use of surveillance flights, intelligence-gathering and ongoing support for evacuations and humanitarian assistance.

On Capitol Hill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, a Republican, took a swipe at Obama at the end of a news conference.

“He’s doing a great job of doing nothing on Libya,” McKeon said.

Clinton, in the Sky News interview, said the United States wants Gadhafi to go peacefully. He has shown no intention to do so.

“If that’s not possible, then we are going to work with the international community,” she said. “Now, there are countries that do not agree with that. We think it’s important that the United Nations make this decision, not the United States, and so far the United Nations has not done that. I think it’s very important that this not be a U.S.-led effort, because this comes from the people of Libya themselves; this doesn’t come from the outside.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/obama-cameron-discuss-libya-options-clinton-says-un-20110308-153123-560.html

 

 


Gaddafi strikes town, rebels call for foreign help

By Mohammed Abbas | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi launched an offensive to retake territory in Libya‘s east on Wednesday, sparking a rebel warning that foreign armed forces might be needed to “put the nail in his coffin” and end his long rule.

The veteran ruler twinned the attack with a populist propaganda broadside against the rebels at a televised meeting, playing to nationalist opinion by saying a lot of blood would be shed if foreign powers intervened in the country’s crisis.

Government troops briefly captured Marsa El Brega, an oil export terminal, before being driven back by rebels who have controlled the town 800 km (500 miles) east of the capital Tripoli for about a week, rebel officers said.

Their account was contradicted by Libyan state TV, which said Gaddafi’s forces held the airport and seaport.

The veteran leader told the televised gathering the world did not understand that he had given power to the people long ago.

“We put our fingers in the eyes of those who doubt that Libya is ruled by anyone other than its people,” he said at a Tripoli gathering broadcast live on Libyan television, referring to his system of “direct democracy” launched at a meeting attended by visiting Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1977. Referring to an unprecedented two-week-old popular uprising against his rule, Gaddafi also called for the United Nations and NATO to probe the facts about what had happened in Libya, and said he saw a conspiracy to colonize Libya and seize its oil.

The assault appeared to be the most significant military operation by Gaddafi since the uprising erupted in mid-February and set off a confrontation that Washington says could descend into a long civil war unless the veteran strongman steps down.

But analysts cautioned against drawing firm conclusions from fast moving events in a situation of erratic communications.

“The attack reinforces the idea that the government is capable of projecting power far into the east,” said Shashank Joshi, an analyst at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

“But we should keep in mind that both the government and the rebels are trying to spin an image of momentum.

“Bear in mind that in the area around Tripoli, where the government has more forces to draw on, we see government offensives still being blunted quite easily.”

The rebels said they would probably seek foreign military help, a sensitive topic for Western countries uncomfortably aware that Iraq suffered years of bloodletting and al Qaeda violence after a 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

“We are probably going to call for foreign help, probably air strikes at strategic locations that will put the nail in his (Gaddafi’s) coffin,” Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the rebel February 17th Coalition, told Reuters.

“They tried to take Brega this morning, but they failed. It is back in the hands of the revolutionaries. He (Gaddafi) is trying to create all kinds of psychological warfare to keep these cities on edge,” he said.

There are fears that the uprising, the bloodiest yet against long-serving rulers in the Middle East, is causing a major humanitarian crisis, especially on the Tunisian border where thousands of foreign workers are trying to flee to safety.

Gaddafi is defiant and his son, Saif al-Islam, has warned the West against launching military action. He said the veteran ruler would not relinquish power or be driven into exile.

The Libyan leader might do something “desperate” to defend his regime, Italy’s industry minister said.

“There is a possibility, indeed a real possibility, that Gaddafi might make a desperate last-ditch attempt to free himself from the siege that he finds himself in,” said Paolo Romani on Italian television.

Across Libya, tribal leaders, officials, military officers and army units have defected to the rebel cause and say they are becoming more organized. Tripoli is a stronghold for Gaddafi in this oil-producing north African state.

“We are going to keep the pressure on Gaddafi until he steps down and allows the people of Libya to express themselves freely and determine their own future,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Captain Faris Zwei, among officers in the east who joined the opposition to Gaddafi, said there were more than 10,000 volunteers in Ajdabiyah, a short distance from Marsa El Brega.

“We are reorganizing the army, which was almost completely destroyed by Gaddafi and his gang before they left,” he said.

Two amphibious assault ships, USS Kearsarge, which can carry 2,000 Marines, and USS Ponce, entered the Suez Canal on Wednesday en route to the Mediterranean. The destroyer USS Barry moved through the canal on Monday as part of efforts to increase diplomatic and military pressure on Gaddafi to quit.

ARAB LEAGUE POISED TO REJECT FOREIGN MILITARY ROLE

Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo to discuss a draft resolution rejecting foreign military intervention in Libya, the deputy secretary general of the league said.

The repositioning of U.S. ships and aircraft closer to Libya is widely seen as a symbolic show of force since neither the United States nor its NATO allies have shown any appetite for direct military intervention in the turmoil that has seen Gaddafi lose control of large swaths of his country.

Italy said it was sending a humanitarian mission to Tunisia to provide food and medical aid to as many as 10,000 people who had fled violence in Libya on its eastern border.

The White House said the ships were being redeployed in preparation for possible humanitarian efforts but stressed it “was not taking any options off the table.” Gates said: “Our job is to give the president the broadest possible decision space.”

AFRICANS, ASIANS DESPERATE TO LEAVE LIBYA

General James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate hearing that imposing a no-fly zone would be a “challenging” operation. “You would have to remove air defense capability in order to establish a no-fly zone, so no illusions here,” he said. “It would be a military operation.”

At Ras Jdir on the Tunisia border, thousands of Bangladheshi migrant workers, desperate to leave Libya, pressed up against the gates of the frontier crossing, angry at their government for sending no help.

Groups of West African migrant workers also in the crowd chanted for help and held up the flags of Ghana and Nigeria.

About 70,000 people have passed through the Ras Jdir border post in the past two weeks, and many more of the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in Libya are expected to follow.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/gaddafi-defiant-west-flexes-military-muscle-20110301-182841-267.html