Libya Rebels to Ask White House for Money vs. Gadhafi

Friday, 13 May 2011 09:27 AM

 

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Libyan rebels will meet senior White House officials in Washington on Friday to seek cash and diplomatic legitimacy in their battle to topple Moammar Gadhafi.

The head of the rebel council's executive bureau, Mahmoud Jebril, will meet President Barack Obama's national security adviser and other senior officials.

Jebril, a U.S.-educated technocrat who has become a public face of the rebels, has made a plea for Washington to free up some $180 million in frozen Gaddafi assets to fund the campaign.

The Washington meeting comes a day after council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, securing a promise of more aid.

"To those who stand behind Gadhafi they must know his regime is ending. There is no place for Moammar Gadhafi in Libya's future," Jalil told Al Arabiya in comments on Friday, promising amnesty to anyone who defects from Gadhafi's side.

Rebels fighting the Libyan leader's army for almost three months control Benghazi and the east of the country, while Gadhafi's forces are entrenched in the capital Tripoli and nearly all of the west.

NATO-led forces are bombing Libya under a U.N. resolution authorising them to protect civilians. The United States, Britain and France say they will maintain their air campaign until Gadhafi is forced from power.

Russia, which is critical of the NATO mission, on Friday called for talks between the rebels and the Libyan government.

Moscow also said it is up to the U.N. Security Council to decide how to distribute Gadhafi's frozen assets, and argued that the funds should not be used to arm either side.

The rebels say they need funds urgently to pay salaries and run the areas under their control, and want international legitimacy to allow them access to the frozen assets.

"We are facing a very acute . . . financial problem because of the frozen assets," Jebril said at the Brookings Institution think-tank. "So I would like to seize this opportunity . . . to call on the United States administration to help us."

Food, fuel and medical equipment are in short supply in the rebel-controlled Western Mountains region, where the main delivery route is under threat from Gaddafi forces.

Doctors have been forced to open makeshift medical theatres and say they are struggling to treat the wounded

NATO forces bombed Gadhafi's compound on Thursday, and rebels say NATO air strikes helped them secure a major victory this week in seizing the airport in the besieged city of Misrata, their only major stronghold in the west.

Yet the war on the ground remains largely stalemated, with the rebels having little success advancing beyond the east.

 

Libyan television showed footage of Gadhafi this week, ending doubt about his fate after he was not seen in public for nearly two weeks following an air strike that killed his youngest son.

Tripoli says most Libyans support Gadhafi. It calls the rebels armed criminals and al Qaeda militants and says NATO's intervention is an act of colonial aggression.

Libyan officials showed reporters the scene of Thursday's overnight air NATO strike on the compound and said three people were killed and 25 wounded in the attack.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said the strikes hit near a spot where dozens of Libyans come every night, some with families, to shout slogans in support of Gadhafi.

He denied the compound contained any military facilities and pointed to a small park near one of the craters where children were playing on a carousel.

"The NATO alliance is completely bereft of morality," Ibrahim said. "No one has the right to say to the people of Libya move away from the cities so we can bombard you."

An official at NATO headquarters said the target it hit was a large command and control bunker complex.

The rebels have said Western governments should go beyond offering equipment such as satellite phones and body armour and start providing guns.

Thousands of people have been killed since the revolt broke out against Gadhafi's rule in late February.

A Frenchman died of a gunshot wound after he and four other French nationals were stopped at a police checkpoint in Benghazi, the French Foreign ministry said on Thursday. It had no information about who the man was or why he was in Benghazi.

The man was the chief executive of SECOPEX, a French private military company, according to a report on the website of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. The report could not be immediately confirmed.

The French Foreign Ministry said it was still seeking details. Spokesman Bernard Valero said Paris was also trying to find out if one of the detained men was a journalist.


© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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