Libyan rebels claim victory in Brega battle

Libyan rebels claim victory in Brega battle

Libyan rebels claimed Monday victory against troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammer Gaddafi in the eastern port town of Brega, 750 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, dpa reported.

The Doha-based Al Jazeera satellite channel said Gaddafi's troops were retreating west towards the town of Ras Lanuf.

Rebel fighters said the streets of Brega "are littered with anti-personnel mines."

Omar El-Hariri, the designated Minister of Military Affairs for the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya, which was formed to represent the Libyan rebels, told Al Jazeera that the "landmines are a new tactic used by Gaddafi."

The official Libyan JANA news agency said that 19 Gaddafi loyalists had died over the weekend as a result of NATO bombing in the Brega area.

Gaddafi in a speech on Saturday described the rebels as traitors and played down reports that his days were numbered and that he was ready to leave the country.

Earlier, a senior Russian envoy said his country will not accept the rebel National Transitional Council as Libya's sole legitimate government.

"We consider them one of the participants in the negotiations," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "There are many others."

Lavrov in comments at a Moscow press conference criticized the US, Japan and EU nations that have recognized the opposition as Libya's sole government and called for Gaddafi to give up power.

"This is taking sides in the conflict ... and an attempt to isolate one of the sides, in this case Gaddafi," Lavrov said. "We need to have a dialogue with both sides participating."

The best way to resolve the conflict would be round table discussions which would hammer out a new Libyan government based on actual power relationships inside Libya, and not the political goals of outside powers, he said, according to Interfax.

Talks would likely be best led by the African Union and would need to focus first on forming a transition government, followed by an agreement on reforms, a new constitution and, "if necessary," democratic elections, he said.

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