Pro-Gaddafi forces clash with opposition fighters; U.S. considers humanitarian naval operations

Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, people in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change.
Compiled by Ian Saleh
Washington Post Staff
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 12:45 PM

Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gaddafi fought with opposition fighters outside of Zawiyah and Bin Jawwad. As Steve Hendrix and Debbi Wilgoren reported:

Heavy fighting was reported Wednesday in Zawiyah and Bin Jawwad, and there were reports that rebels had reentered Bin Jawwad after being held back for days by troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

With the bloody civil conflict in its third week, the United States and its European allies are debating whether to use naval assets to deliver humanitarian aid to Libya and block arms shipments to the Gaddafi government. The NATO allies are also weighing the legality and ramifications of imposing a no-fly zone on Libya.

NATO military officials are briefing governments on a range of options that will be presented to defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday. The battered opposition forces in this oil-rich North African nation are pleading for outside help.

Reports emerged Wednesday that a senior government official has travelled to Cairo and, additionally, that several of Gaddafi's planes had left Libya. As Elizabeth Flock related:

Libyan envoys are in talks with European Union officials in Brussels, Al Jazeera reported. The delegation in Brussels will meet NATO officials in the coming days.

The Libyan deputy defense minister has also arrived in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Deputy Defence Minister Abdelrahman al-Zawi was reportedly carrying a message from Gaddafi and was to meet with Amr Moussa, head of the Arab league, according to state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

Separately, three of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's private planes have taken off from a military airstrip near Tripoli, according to Al Jazeera. The planes are allegedly flying in three different directions. "One is suggested to be Vienna, the other is supposed to be Athens in Greece, and the other is Cairo, Egypt," Karl Stango-Navarra, a journalist based in Valletta, Malta, told Al Jazeera.

The United States and its European allies have begun discussing naval humanitarian operations in Libya. As Karen DeYoung explained:

The United States and its European allies are considering the use of naval assets to deliver humanitarian aid to Libya and to block arms shipments to the government of Moammar Gaddafi, even as they weigh the legality of imposing a no-fly zone without United Nations authorization, according to U.S. and European officials.

The Obama administration, NATO and other international organizations are united in their belief that any military intervention in Libya would require some international backing. But with a U.N. mandate far from assured, those considering some form of intervention - including the United States, Britain, France and Italy - are looking for alternative support, officials said.

Officials, saying international support could come from regional blocs, noted that NATO's air attacks on Serbia in 1999 came without U.N. backing.

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