Libyan rebel chief says more fighters available

Reuters , Saturday 12 Mar 2011

In an interview with Reuters, head of Libya's National council asserts that plenty of fighters are available, urging the international community to go ahead with the No Fly zone

The head of Libya's rebel council said on Saturday there were plenty of fighters to attack the forces of Muammar Gaddafi, but said without restrictions on his ships and planes, civilians would suffer.

In the east, Gaddafi forces have retaken the oil port of Ras Lanuf, and in the west, the revolt in Zawiyah has been crushed after days of fierce attacks by government forces.

Asked if parts of the rebel army are being held back from the front line, Libyan National Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said: "The volunteers now at the front are less than 30 percent of the people who are willing to go and fight, our people are ready and determined to fight Gaddafi's forces."

On the question of securing arms supply from abroad, the former justice minister said in the interview with Reuters: "Some people (in the revolution) in their capacity are making efforts to get some weapons. If a no-fly zone and restrictions on Gaddafi's ships are not imposed, Libya's civilians are going to suffer."

Prior to being pushed back at Ras Lanuf, the rebels had made one of their objectives capturing Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte.

When asked if it was possible to take Sirte without foreign help, Abdel Jalil said: "People in Sirte and other cities such as Tripoli are with the revolution, but they have been under siege. Gaddafi forces have been surrounding these cities and we are going there just to break the siege, not to do more."

Abdel Jalil said the rebels had never had proper negotiations with Tripoli. "We did not really have proper negotiations with Saif al-Islam or his father. Since the first day the protesters took to the streets, they started shooting them with live ammunition."

On recognising the council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, as done by the Paris government, he said:

"We expect all countries who respect human rights and common international values and who want to protect the civilians to recognise the national council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people."

If Gaddafi forces reached the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second city, "this would mean the death of half a million," he said.

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