Libyan opposition to accept ceasefire but fortify key city

Arab World Materials 1 April 2011 22:42 (UTC +04:00)

The Libyan opposition on Friday moved to fortify the key north-eastern city of Ajdabiya at the same time as the Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) said rebels would accept a conditional ceasefire, dpa reported.

Ajdabiya is an important stop between the capital Tripoli and the rebel stronghold Benghazi. The city was preparing for a possible attack by Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's forces as rebels struggled to recapture key eastern cities they lost earlier this week.

Rebels are now fighting to regain the key oil port of al-Burayqa, according to the broadcaster Al Jazeera.

But ITNC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the opposition would accept a ceasefire if Gaddafi withdrew his forces from all of Libya's cities and respected the rights of Libyans to choose.

"The world will see that they will choose freedom," Abdel Jalil said during a joint press conference with UN special envoy to Libya Abdelilah al-Khatib, who was on a short visit to Libya's eastern front.

The main demand of the ITNC is that Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, step down and that a new government made up of officials from within the rebel council take charge during a transition to free elections. They have appealed for more weapons to fight Gaddafi's forces.

Meanwhile, reports emerged that a coalition airstrike had killed seven civilians, mostly children, and wounded another 25 people near the town of Brega on Wednesday, according to a Libyan doctor quoted on the BBC.

The opposition had said Thursday they were confident that coalition airstrikes, now led by NATO as part of a UN-authorized no- fly zone, would help them reclaim lost territory.

NATO said Friday that 74 airstrikes had been carried out against Libya on Thursday - the first day the Western alliance commanded military operations.

NATO took over from an impromptu coalition coordinated by the United States, with France and Britain playing leading roles.

Both Germany and China on Friday called for renewed efforts toward a political, non-violent solution of the conflict. Both countries abstained from a UN Security Council vote two weeks ago that approved a no-fly zone over the conflict-ridden country.