Libyan rebels vow to retake port city

Libyan rebels trying to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime acknowledge that the dictator's forces had gained control of Ras Lanouf after days of fighting over the oil port.

Gadhafi camp regroups while international community shows disarray

Supporters of Libyan rebels gather outside Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Saturday to urge Arab foreign ministers to approve a no-fly zone over Libya. (Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press)

Libyan rebels trying to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime acknowledged Saturday that the dictator’s forces had gained control of Ras Lanouf after days of fighting over the oil port.

But Gen. Abdel-Fattah Younis, the former interior minister who joined the Libyan uprising, said his side wasn’t giving up on the town or its oil refinery, about 615 kilometres southeast of Tripoli, the capital.

"We should be back today or at the latest tomorrow," he said.

A week ago, rebel fighters controlled the eastern half of Libya and were pushing toward Tripoli. 

The assault on Ras Lanouf  was a sign the Gadhafi camp had regrouped after it first seemed to reel in confusion for the much of the uprising that began Feb. 15. With Gadhafi's men on the march against rebels, the international community appeared in disarray over how to stop the bloodshed.


 Arab foreign ministers were meeting in Egypt on Saturday to discuss a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the civilian population from the Gadhafi’s fighter jets.


But the Arab League's member states are divided over how to deal with the Libyan crisis, signaling it would be a tough debate.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also will be in Cairo on Saturday to meet with leaders of the Arab League.

U.S. President Barack Obama said a no-fly zone remains a possibility as "we are slowly tightening the noose" around Gadhafi, but he stopped short of moving toward military action.


The European Union, meanwhile, said a no-fly zone would need diplomatic backing from international organizations like the Arab League.

Government forces also recaptured the strategic town of Zawiya, near Tripoli, on Friday. Zawiya's main square, which had been a key center of resistance to the west of the capital. There was talk of rebel bodies having been bulldozed away, and the dome and minaret of the nearby mosque were demolished.

Zawiya is considered a vital strategic point because of its proximity to Tripoli, Gadhafi's stronghold.

"What you are seeing here is the look of suppression," CBC's Adrienne Arsenault reported from the rubble-strewn scene, as soldiers swathed in Ghadafi green fired celebratory shots in the air.

The capture of Zawiya, a coastal city of about 200,000 people near an oil port and refineries, seals off a corridor around the capital and solidifies the government's control over the western third of the country to the border with Tunisia.

The government still faced a rebel challenge in Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, 200 kilometres southeast of Tripoli.




With files from CBC News