Libya opposition urges international-enforced no-fly zone

Libya opposition urges international-enforced no-fly zone

A national council formed by Libyan opposition forces called on the international community Saturday to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, while rejecting foreign military presence inside Libya, dpa reported.

The council, formed in the eastern rebel-held city of Benghazi, also asked for a ban on the southern airports that bring mercenaries to the country.

Despite ruler Moamer Gaddafi's denial, witnesses said that paid militants from African countries had attacked and killed protesters. Others said mercenaries were present at the border with Tunisia.

"They insist on enforcing a no-fly zone over the airports to prevent Gaddafi's security from shelling rebels or from shooting at people," Nezar, one of the protesters, told the German Press Agency dpa.

"However, they reject any foreign military presence inside Libya," added Nezar.

The council, which aims to give a political face to the uprising against Gaddafi, also demanded international recognition of its legitimacy as a representative of the people.

The council chose Abdulraman Shalgam to be the country's "legitimate representative" at the United Nations.

He was Libya's ambassador to the UN before he defected to the opposition camp last month. Beforehand, he had appealed to the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Gaddafi and spare the Libyan people.

The opposition council had also begun setting up contacts with Libyan embassies around the world "that announced their support for the people," Nezar said.

The council was formed by former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who defected from Gaddafi's regime to join the rebels. It includes 31 members from different "liberated" cities.

Its first meeting came Saturday while Gaddafi's forces sought to regain control of cities now held by rebels.

An eyewitness told dpa that four "saboteurs" were seen emerging from an ammunition depot near Benghazi before two consecutive explosions rocked the depot late on Friday.

A woman, identified as being responsible for aid and support in Benghazi, said the attack left 70 people killed, including firefighters who went to the scene to put out the flames.

Also on Saturday, around 35 of Gaddafi's tanks were seen approaching the north-western city of al-Zawiyah, the broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

Clashes between rebels and security forces have been continuing with Gaddafi's troops trying to regain control of the rebel stronghold, located about 50 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli.

Gaddafi's forces were deployed around the city, where internet access was blocked.

However, rebels said that they gained control of al-Noufliya, a town near the coastal city of al-Burayqa.

A witness said rebels managed to shoot down three planes, killing the crew, who they suspect of being mercenaries from Eastern Europe.

Violence has been ongoing in Libya since February 15, when widespread protests demanding Gaddafi's departure began. The death toll in the uprising is estimated at more than 1,000.

The Libyan leader's brutal crackdown on the demonstrations has led to international condemnation, sanctions and an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

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