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Anti-Gaddafi Forces Close To Tripoli, US Mulls No-Fly Zone

Cairo/Washington, Feb 28: Opposition forces today stormed close to the Libyan capital Tripoli for a final  showdown with militia still loyal to beleaguered strong-man Muammar Gaddafi, as US and its European allies readied plans for
PTI February 28, 2011 16:57 IST
PTI
Cairo/Washington, Feb 28: Opposition forces today stormed close to the Libyan capital Tripoli for a final  showdown with militia still loyal to beleaguered strong-man Muammar Gaddafi, as US and its European allies readied plans for a possible imposition of a 'no-fly zone' over the embattled country.

Three areas close to the east of the capital fell to the opposition forces advancing from Az-Zawiyah, just 50 kms west of the capital, Al-Jazeera channel reported.

Quoting its correspondent moving with the opposition forces, the channel said heavily armed Gaddafi's forces were manning check-posts between Az-Zawiyah and Tripoli.

It said there were also reports of Gaddafi loyalists demonstrating in small towns on the periphery of the capital.

"Gaddafi was reported to be holed up in the heavily fortified Bab al-Aziziya area of the capital with his mercenaries militia men ringing him," the channel said.

It claimed that Gaddafi loyalists were also venturing to launch probing attacks outside the capital and said that at the moment "the capital was still in his control".

As Gaddafi and opposition forces seemed to be locking into a final battle, US and its European allies appeared to be stiffening their attitude to fast paced developments in Libya.

Obama administration officials were in talks with European and other allied governments for a possible imposition of 'no-fly zone' over Libya to prevent further killings of civilians by troops loyal to Gaddafi, New York Times reported.

US officials are also discussing whether the American military could move to disrupt communications to prevent Col Gaddafi from broadcasting in Libya.

The paper also said Washington was also pondering to set up 'safe corridors' leading from Libya into neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt to assist the refugees, whose numbers are multiplying.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was scheduled to meet US President Barrack Obama in White House to discuss the deteriorating situation in Libya.

France today declared it would send "massive" aid to opposition held territories in Libya and did not rule out supporting the NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone.

The French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the country's air force plane would start leaving for Benghazi  to start a massive humanitarian and relief operation.

The French announcement followed as British and German military planes flew clandestinely into the Libyan desert rescuing hundreds of civilians stranded in the country.

The dramatic rescue by planes came after a secret commando raid by Britain's famed SAS which plucked 150 oil workers from multiple locations from the remote Libyan desert, 'The Sunday Telegraph' reported.

The paper quoting unnamed Whitehall officials said the secret military mission into the strife torn country signalled the readiness of western nations to disregard Libya's territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of its citizens.

Three British Royal Air force C130 Hercules Aircraft swooped into the eastern Libyan desert to pluck out 150 stranded civilians and flew them to safety to Malta yesterday, the British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a statement.

Telegraph said, one of the RAF Hercules transport aircraft suffered minor damages from small arms fire.

In a similar defiant action, Germany said its air force transport planes had evacuated 132 people from the Libyan desert during a secret military mission on Saturday. PTI