BENGHAZI – The US continued to mull a no-fly zone over Libya as rebels battled Libyan forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. In an interview aired by France's LCI television channel Wednesday, Gaddafi accused Western countries, especially France, of plotting to "colonize" his oil-rich nation.
Also Wednesday, in an interview with Turkish public television, Gaddafi warned that Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country's oil. "Libyans will take up arms and fight," he said.
Gaddafi also warned that if al-Qaeda extremists were to gain the upper hand in his country the entire region, bordering on Israel, will be plunged into chaos.
Meanwhile state television aired a number of interviews with soldiers joining the various fronts. The Gaddafi loyalists, many of whom expressed a good deal of motivation to eradicate the rebels, were making their way mainly towards the area of Ras Lanuf, from whence they plan to continue to Ajdabiya and Benghazi. They appeared armed with rifles and machine guns.
Rebels in Benghazi (Photo: Tsur Shezaf)
It appeared that the leader was enlisting volunteers in order to give the illusion of national support for Libya's regime.
Rebels said tanks belonging to pro-Gaddafi forces were closing in on the rebel-held main square of the western city of Zawiyah early Wednesday. "We can see the tanks. The tanks are everywhere," he told Reuters by phone from inside the city.
NATO weighs military options
In addition, a drone reportedly sent by the US has been circling Ras Lanuf over the past few days, apparently supplying the administration with intelligence on the battlefront.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the United States and its NATO allies are weighing the legality of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya without United Nations backing. The paper cited US and European officials.
With a UN mandate far from certain, countries considering some form of military intervention – the United States, Britain, France and Italy – are looking for alternative international support, the officials told the newspaper.
The officials suggested international backing could come from regional blocs, such as the Arab League, the African Union or the European Union, and noted that NATO's air attacks on Serbia in 1999 came without UN authorization, the Post said.
Europe and the US are concerned over rising oil prices, which have placed a damper on the world's recovery from the 2008 recession. Meanwhile, Russia stands to gain from the Libyan turmoil as the world's main oil producer, and has so far seen a 30% rise in sales.
Exclusive interview: Jews 'long gone'
Professor Figi, the official architect of Benghazi, told Ynet that all of the city's Jews were "long gone". He added that their synagogue had also "vanished" long ago.
Figi is around 60 years old, and spent 11 years studying architecture in Florence. He hopes his training will help him to rebuild the city after the revolution.
"I want to build a museum for Gaddafi's crimes against our people," he said. "Gaddafi is saying we are a bunch of tribes. Of course we were – there is nothing shameful in it, but long ago we emerged into a people, we intermarried and we are one now, and the people are against him."
Figi added that Gaddafi "took away our freedom, chased away with fear – there is not even one family in Libya that did not loose a family member – he killed many of us. Nobody can live without freedom."
Despite the hardships, the professor was optimistic. "You know the Turks left here in 1911 and then (Libya) moved into Italian hands. It's been exactly 100 years now and it comes back to the free people of Libya. We can manage, we have culture, we are educated and we are rich," he said, referring to Libya's huge supply of oil.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report
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