James R. Clapper says Gaddafi likely to win as France recognizes Libyan opposition

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
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 1:32 PM

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence predicted Col. Moammar Gaddafi would prevail against rebel forces if left alone. As Craig Whitlock and Edward Cody reported:

James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Gaddafi has consolidated his position in recent days and that his forces are far better equipped than the rebels, giving him a clear advantage.

"We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul," Clapper said. "Right now, he seems to have staying power unless some other dynamic changes at this time."

Clapper testified after Libyan government forces drove hundreds of rebels from the key oil port of Ras Lanuf on Thursday, dealing a major setback to opposition hopes of advancing westward toward the capital, Tripoli. The loyalist forces rained bombs, rockets and tank shells on the town 412 miles east of Tripoli, hitting the main hospital and oil facilities and forcing lightly armed rebels to flee in cars and pickup trucks, the Associated Press reported. An opposition official said government forces also used gunboats to fire on rebels from the sea.

Gaddafi's forces attacked rebel forces across Libya with artillery and tanks. As Steve Hendrix, Liz Sly and Tara Bahrampour reported:

Pro-government forces intensified their siege around the rebel-held town of Misurata Thursday, one resident said, cutting off the delivery of food and supplies, preventing farmers from going to their fields, and abducting people on the city's outskirts.

"People are being kidnapped. . .and taken to Sirte and other places, and from there to Tripoli, where they are tortured and have to confess to crimes they did not commit," said Saleh Abed el-Aziz, an architect, who was interviewed by phone.

Abed el-Aziz said morale in Misurata--a key port between Tripoli and Sirte, home town of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi--is high despite the siege.

Video: Gaddafi forces slam oil port, rebels retreat

France became the first country to recognize the Libyan opposition. As Don Melvin and Raf Casert explained:

France blazed a diplomatic trail as it recognized a newly formed Libyan opposition group Thursday, drawing the ire of other European nations for stepping out on its own even as the situation in Libya remained unclear.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of Hillary Rodham Clinton said she will meet with members of the Libyan opposition, both in the U.S. and when she travels to Egypt and Tunisia next week.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy shook hands with two representatives of Libya's Interim Governing Council on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris, as the European Union approved further sanctions to address the country's bloody crackdown and declare Gadhafi's strongman rule over.

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