Africa

Libya: Rebels move on Brega as Gaddafi aide holds talks

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Media captionThe BBC meets a Libyan accountant from Benghazi who became a rebel fighter

Libyan rebels are advancing towards the eastern oil town of Brega, reports say, in renewed fighting with forces loyal to leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, who currently hold the territory.

Brega has changed hands several times in the past month.

Senior Libyan envoy Abdelati Obeidi is now in Turkey for talks. He has said Col Gaddafi wants the fighting to end.

Meanwhile, Italy has become the third country to recognise the rebel council as Libya's legitimate government.

Mr Obeidi, Libya's deputy foreign minister, held talks in Athens on Sunday. He is reportedly keen to open a dialogue with the international community.

Rebels firm

The BBC's Wyre Davies, who is on the road close to Brega, says the rebels appear to be more buoyant and organised than recently, while the sounds of gunfire and weaponry can be heard from the front line a few kilometres away.

Rebel fighters are charging towards the front line, our correspondent says, clearly bolstered by the presence in their ranks of more and more soldiers who have defected from Col Gaddafi's army.

But the rebels remain poorly trained and equipped, he adds, and even if they manage to take Brega there still seems no realistic prospect of an advance on Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

One rebel told the AFP news agency Nato planes had been heard over the area during the night, but no air strikes had been carried out.

As rebel forces advanced on Brega, a spokesman said they would not accept any transition in Libya that saw power transfer to any of Col Gaddafi's sons.

He said the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) was resolutely opposed to the possibility, reported by the New York Times, that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his brother Saadi Gaddafi could emerge as interim leaders if their father stepped aside. The report could not be verified by the BBC.

"This is completely rejected by the council," TNC spokesman Shamseddin Abdulmelah said in Benghazi, the rebels' eastern stronghold.

"Gaddafi and his sons have to leave before any diplomatic negotiations can take place."

The latest rebel advance came as Mr Obeidi arrived in Turkey on the latest leg of a diplomatic visit to Europe.

Image caption Muhammad was peppered with shrapnel when a rocket exploded near him in Misrata

On Sunday he told the Greek prime minister that Col Gaddafi wanted the fighting to end.

"From the Libyan envoy's comments it appears that the regime is seeking a solution," Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas told reporters.

Mr Droutsas said Athens had stressed the international community's call for Libya to comply with UN Security Council resolution 1973, which authorised military intervention to protect civilians.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said at a Rome news conference on Monday that Mr Obeidi had made no mention that Col Gaddafi intended to step aside.

In that context "it is not possible to accept such a point of view", Mr Frattini said.

Speaking alongside a key Libyan rebel figure, Mr Frattini said the TNC now represented "the new Libya".

Besides Italy, only France and Qatar have recognised the TNC as Libya's government.

'Snipers everywhere'

Pro-Gaddafi forces are again attacking the city of Misrata, the Reuters news agency reports, quoting a rebel spokesman.

Evacuees in Tunisia told Reuters that tanks and snipers were carrying out a "massacre" in Misrata, the only major city in western Libya which remains under rebel control.

The city has been under siege for several weeks.

On Sunday, a Turkish humanitarian ship carrying more than 250 injured people from Misrata arrived in Benghazi.

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Media captionThe BBC's Tim Willcox looks at a tank destroyed by an air strike

Doctors on board the ship, Ankara, said many people had extremely serious injuries.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, who went on board, said one man had lost part of his leg in an explosion as he was taking his wife to hospital for treatment.

A 13-year-old boy had been shot by a sniper. And a 12-year-old had been peppered with shrapnel when a rocket exploded as he and his brother had been on their way to the market.

Our correspondent says everyone had stories of the ever-worsening conditions in Misrata. They told him that much of the city had no water or electricity and no-one was safe from shelling or sniper-fire.

"It is very, very bad. In my street, Gaddafi bombed us," Ibrahim al-Aradi, who had wounds in his groin, told Reuters. "We have no water, no electricity. We don't have medicine. There are snipers everywhere."

Doctors on board say medical care conditions in Misrata are inadequate and that more than 200 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded. One unconfirmed report said 160 could have died in the past week.

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