“We have a serious problem with petrol. This is a big problem,” Ahmed Abdinibi, a 19-year-old year old student turned volunteer fighter, told the Associated Press outside a gas station in Ras Lanuf.
“Maybe we have enough for just another day. . .Maybe we will not find another place like this.”
Hours earlier, the rebel capital of Benghazi had erupted in celebratory gun and rocket fire amid rumors that that Sirte, a Gaddafi stronghold, had fallen.
But those rumors seemed to be unfounded. Opposition spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said he did not have information that the rebels were in control in Sirte, and news services later reported that there was no fighting in the town, and no sign of rebel forces.
Instead, dozens of fighters loyal to Gaddafi could be seen roaming the streets of Sirte Sunday night, the Associated Press reported. Witnesses told AP that bombing was heard in the town Sunday night and again Monday morning.
Qatar, one of two Arab nations participating in the NATO-led airstrikes, announced Monday that it would recognize the Libyan National Transition Council as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Libyan people. The announcement, carried by the official Qatar News Agency, was posted on the Web site of the Qatar foreign ministry.
In Washington, U.S. officials were guardedly optimistic about the reversal of fortunes for the rebels. President Obama is scheduled to address the nation on Monday night, and officials said he will be able to show that the operation is starting to achieve its goals. Obama has faced mounting criticism from some lawmakers, who fear that the United States could get bogged down in a foreign intervention without a clear objective.
Senior U.S. officials said Sunday that Gaddafi’s 41-year rule could end with the implosion of his regime or a negotiated settlement rather than an outright rebel victory.
“One should not underestimate the possibility of the regime itself cracking,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.
But analysts warned that, although the rebels have seized the initiative in eastern Libya, they still face formidable obstacles.
NATO members agreed Sunday evening that the alliance would assume control of the international military campaign against Libya. It had earlier taken over from the U.S. military in leading enforcement of an arms embargo and a no-fly zone and had debated for days whether to coordinate the politically riskier strikes on Libyan ground forces.