by our Arab Affairs correspondent
FIERCE fighting continues in Tripoli as loyalist troops battle with imperialist-backed rebel bands for control of the Libyan capital. There’s been widespread looting and snipers from both sides have paralysed much of the city.
The government TV centre has been knocked out in a Nato air-raid and helicopter gunships are reported to be giving the rebels ground support on the streets. The Gaddafi government says it is mobilising tribal militias for a big counter-attack but it is impossible to verify the claims of either side at the moment.
People’s China has said it is ready to work with the broader international community to quickly restore stability to war-torn Libya. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that the Libyan situation has entered a critical phase and that the top priority is to bring the country back to calm and order, and let the Libyan people determine the future of their country.
Relevant parties in Libya should initiate an inclusive political process at an early date and realise national reconciliation through dialogue and consultation.
The Russians have also been calling for talks. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has ruled out recognition of the rebel “National Transitional Council” as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Such a move would not help matters though Russia recognised that the rebels must be a party in any talks on the future of the country.
The crucial stage of the Libyan conflict could have been reached much earlier, Lavrov stated at a press conference in San Salvador. “We have always wanted a quicker outcome, and it could have been faster, but a number of factors prevented this from happening, including Gaddafi’s position,” Lavrov said after talks on Monday with his Salvadorian counterpart, Hugo Martinez.
“Till the last day, Gaddafi insisted that negotiations were only possible through him”. Nato’s actions were also an obstacle, Lavrov stated, pointing out that they far exceeded the mandate handed to the alliance by the UN Security Council.
As we go to press the rebels have taken control of central Tripoli but their positions are being pounded by Libyan army Grad missiles and mortars, while loyalist troops advance on the town of Ajelat, west of Tripoli, with missiles and tanks.
Colonel Gaddafi has addressed the Libyan people to say the battle with the aggressors will last “until the end”. Speaking on Libyan radio, he said that “in the fight against aggressors there is only death or victory”.
Gaddafi said that the Bab al-Aziziya compound, which the rebels overran on Tuesday, no longer exists. It was totally destroyed by 64 Nato air strikes. Meanwhile, the rebels’ assault on the Tripoli compound has brought no visible results and shelling goes on in Libyan towns.
Rebel forces punched their way into Tripoli, under the protection of a Nato air armada, on Sunday, to claim that they were in Green Square and that they had captured Saif al Islam and two other sons of the Libyan leader. These were exposed as lies when those allegedly captured all spoke to the media and Saif, who commands loyalist units in Tripoli, appeared in public to address a rally and meet international journalists.
The Libyans claim to have shot down one Nato helicopter, which crashed into the sea. They also claim that the film of cheering rebels in Green Square splashed across the world by the imperialist media was fabricated in a studio by Al Jazeera, the Qatari TV station that has been rooting for the rebels since day one because Qatar backs them to the hilt.
Pointing out glaring discrepancies between the real Green Square in Tri poli and the Al Jazeera version, the Gaddafi government claims this was part of a psychops operation designed to give the rebels more international credibility.
Libyan government sources say the rebel advance was assisted by Nato commandos, including British special forces which, they say, were ambushed as they moved into Tripoli.
Nato has not reported any losses and the loyalists have been unable to produce any evidence to back up their claims apart from the bodies of some dead Arab soldiers apparently carrying Qatari identity cards.
The Libyan rebels hope to be in total control of Tripoli in time for the Arab League meeting in Cairo this weekend to claim formal recognition from Saudis and the other oil princes that have worked hand in glove with the imperialists to oust Gaddafi and hand Libya over to the big oil corporations they all serve.
Tripoli may still be beyond their reach, given the resistance they’ve encountered so far but there’s no doubt the toothless League will do whatever the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emir of Qatar, want. These two absolute monarchs along with the rest of the feudal Arab bloc, all hope for a share of the pie if and when Libya is carved up by the imperialists. But as long as Gaddafi lives it’s still a big if….