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Gaddafi backtracks on retaking Benghazi!

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Askari Kanzu, May 12, 2011.

  1. Askari Kanzu

    Askari Kanzu JF-Expert Member

    May 12, 2011
    Joined: Jan 7, 2011
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    Libya will not try to retake rebel east: deputy FM

    By W.G. Dunlop (AFP)
    12 May 2011

    TRIPOLI - Libyan authorities will not try to retake the rebel-held east by force, Libya's deputy foreign minister said in an interview in which he branded Tripoli's initial response to the crisis "a big failure."

    Khaled Kaim, a key public face of the Libyan regime since an anti-regime revolt broke out in February, also estimated that "millions" of weapons had been distributed to civilians by the military.

    "It's not in the policy of the government to reclaim the towns in the east" from rebels seeking Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's ouster, he told a small group of reporters including AFP,

    Government forces advanced to the outskirts of the rebel capital of Benghazi before they were pushed back as an international coalition launched air strikes on March 19. NATO took command of military operations on March 31.

    Kaim indicated the air strikes were a factor.

    "The problem is now, because there is the foreign factor in the conflict, and if the government forces advance, then there will be more fighting with the rebels, and we have to deal with fighting from the air from NATO," he said.

    Kaim pointed to efforts to seek a negotiated settlement.

    "Now the tactics of the rebels (are) to convince the people of Benghazi ... that the government will come to Benghazi and will slaughter people and commit massacres," he said.

    "We will prove to them otherwise, that there is no intention to go to Benghazi by force, and we will leave it for the people and we will leave it for the dialogue," the official said.

    Kaim said the government's response to pro-democracy protests in February that quickly escalated into armed conflict as security forces fired on demonstrators had been "a big failure."

    "I have to admit that the performance of the government -- not the leader (Kadhafi), the government -- was not very convincing," he said.

    Some ministers "dealt with the problem as they were dealing with such problems in the past. I know that now the dynamics in society is changing, and it was a big failure for the government," he said.

    Kaim said the armed forces had handed out "millions" of weapons to citizens in the early stages of the conflict as rebels advanced towards Tripoli, in what could pose a major security headache in the aftermath of the conflict.

    "The problem is a lot of people have been armed now," he said.

    "And now to contain this problem, the local authorities and the tribal leaders decided to form ... local brigades to be prepared if there is an invasion," he said, asked about daily gunfire in the capital.

    "The demand of people in Tripoli when they saw the rebels advancing towards the western areas, they were very scared and they went to the government, and the demand was to be armed and prepared, trained to be ready to fight," he said.