Friday 18 August 2017

Gaddafi closer to victory as EU calls for his removal

Donald Macintyre in Tripoli

COLONEL Muammar Gaddafi's regime celebrated yesterday after retaking a strategic city near Tripoli following days of shelling and strengthening its hold on the capital and surrounding areas.

Loyalists celebrated on Zawiya's main square, which had been the centre of resistance, amid a heavy presence of pro-Gaddafi troops, tanks and snipers.

There was talk of rebel bodies having been bulldozed away, and the dome and minaret of the nearby mosque were demolished -- grim evidence of battle after days of relentless shelling by government forces.

But if there is one lesson from the revolts that have spread through the Arab world, it is that nothing can be predicted with certainty. But it looks very much as if this was the week that Col Gaddafi's forces used their vastly superior weaponry to turn the tide, confounding the West and dashing the hopes of many Libyans.

In the aftermath of the reverse for the rebels, regime SMS messages warned of the impending "liberation" from opposition forces of Ajdabiya and the key second city of Benghazi, their two strongholds on the coast beyond the heavily bombarded oil port.

This echoed precisely the bellicose chants from the more raucous elements to whom Col Gaddafi promised on Thursday night, "we are coming" to Benghazi.

This wasn't so clear even by mid-week. On Wednesday night, journalists were taken on a midnight victory trip to Zawiya, the town 30 miles west of Tripoli, which Col Gaddafi had warned two weeks earlier was "slipping away". But it was impossible to be sure the control there was real.

Whether and how soon the government forces will advance eastwards, prompting fears of brutal reprisals against those involved in the uprising, remains to be seen.

Embarrass

On the one hand, a clear military victory will severely embarrass Western powers calling for Col Gaddafi's fall, but they are seemingly increasingly unsure how to secure that.

On the other, even if he secures the victory, that does not necessarily mean that his rule remains secure.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night backed a demand by the EU for Col Gaddafi to surrender. The EU's 27 countries promised to "examine all necessary options" to protect the civilian population, but there was no agreement on a no-fly zone over Libya, which was one of the measures proposed by Britain and France.

Mr Kenny strongly supported the EU's calling for "Gaddafi to go and to go now". The Taoiseach also claimed he "specifically intervened" to help leaders reach agreement on how to express their concern about attacks against civilians in Libya. The issue was a point of real concern for Ireland. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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