Maldives calls for support of Libyan rebels, rebels request air strikes

A delegation of Libyan rebels from the Transitional National Council have met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and called for Western powers to assassinate the country’s President, Muammar Gaddafi.

A spokesperson for the Benghazi-based rebels, Mustafa Gheriani, told media in Paris on Monday that the group wanted “a no-fly zone, we want tactical strikes against those tanks and rockets that are being used against us, and we want a strike against Gaddafi’s compound,” said Gheriani. “This is the message from our delegation in Europe.”

Other rebel leaders in France include Abdul-Jalil, previously Gadaffi’s justice minister who resigned in protest against “excessive use of force” against demonstrators, Abdel-Hafiz Ghoqa, a representative for Benghazi and a human-rights lawyer, and Omar Al Hariri, a former general now in charge of the rebellion’s military affairs who was responsible for teaching Gadaffi to drive.

Gaddafi’s forces, including foreign mercenaries and the airforce, have pushed the Libyan rebels back to the town of Ajdarbia, the last occupied town before the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Early gains by the rebels saw them capture key oil centres such as Ras Lanuf in the confusion as elements of the regime’s military defected. However now the government’s forces have stabilised and begun to push back, the disorganised and ill-disciplined rebel fighters have been unable to contend with Gaddafi’s tanks and apparent enthusiasm to use air-strikes against his own population.

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed today joined earlier calls from the Arab League for the UN Security Council to fulfill its obligations and impose a no-fly zone in Libya.

“Through its own actions, the Gadaffi regime has lost its legitimacy and right to govern,” President Nasheed said.

“Following the Gaddafi regime’s loss of legitimacy, at the present time the Transitional National Council has emerged as the only legitimate body representing the aspirations of the Libyan people. The international community, led by the UN, must therefore immediately open channels of communication with the Transitional National Council.”

Imposing a no-fly-zone would most likely involve US intervention under the banner of NATO. US generals, cautious given the country’s controversial history of intervention in the region, have pointed out that policing the no-fly zone would require strikes against Libyan surface-to-air weapon systems and amount to military intervention.

Prior to the escalation of the conflict President Mohamed Nasheed called for the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Libya, amid a wave of unrest against the region’s assorted dictators.
Yesterday, Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to halt an uprising of the country’s Shia Muslim majority against the Sunni-elite. The opposition in Bahrain has denounced the move as an act of war that could trigger further waves of strife in the region.
“We consider the entry of Saudi Arabia or other Gulf forces into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation,” Bahrain’s Shia Wefaq party said in a statement.