World powers vow to oust Gadhafi

World powers vow to oust Gadhafi

 Bloody Battle: Rebel fighters prepare their ammunition on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, 150 km east of Sirte, central Libya, on Tuesday. APAn international coalition piled pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi on Tuesday to quit, pledging to continue military action against his forces until he complies with a UN resolution to protect civilians.

They also agreed at a one-day conference in London to set up a contact group to coordinate political efforts on Libya, which would hold its first meeting in Arab ally Qatar soon, and backed an offer by the Qatari government to sell oil produced in rebel-held parts of Libya to pay for humanitarian needs.

“We urge Gadhafi and his people to leave and not to pose any more bloodshed,” said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, adding that the offer of an exit might only be on the table for a few days.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told a final news conference that while Britain was not engaged in efforts to find somewhere for Gadhafi to go, others were free to do so.

Rebels fighting Gadhafi promised to build a free, democratic state if they won power in Tripoli.

‘Murderous attacks’

British Prime Minister David Cameron, opening a conference of 40 governments and international bodies, accused Gadhafi’s supporters of conducting “murderous attacks” on people in Misrata, Libya’s third largest city.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that coalition military strikes on Libya would continue until Gadhafi fully complied with UN demands to cease violence against civilians and pull forces out of occupied cities.

“All of us must continue to increase the pressure on and deepen the isolation of the Gadhafi regime through other means as well,” Clinton said.

“This includes a unified front of political and diplomatic pressure that makes clear to Gadhafi that he must go.”

Meanwhile, Muammar Gadhafi’s better armed and organised troops reversed the westward charge of Libyan rebels.

It took five days of allied air strikes to pulverise Libyan government tanks around the town of Ajdabiyah before Gadhafi’s troops fled and the rebels rushed in and began their 300-km, two-day dash across the desert to within 80 km of the Gadhafi loyalist stronghold of Sirte.

But the rebel pick-up truck cavalcade was first ambushed, then outflanked by Gadhafi’s troops. The advance stopped and government forces retook the small town of Nawfaliyah, 120 km east of Sirte.

“The Gadhafi guys hit us with Grads (rockets) and they came round our flanks,” Ashraf Mohammed, a 28-year-old rebel wearing a bandolier of bullets, told a Reuters reporter at the front.

The sporadic thud of heavy weapons could be heard as dozens of civilian cars sped eastwards away from the fight.

One man stopped his car to berate the rebels.

“Get yourselves up there and stop posing for pictures,” he shouted, but met little response.

Later, a hail of machinegun and rocket fire hit rebel positions. As the onslaught began, rebels leapt behind sand dunes to fire back but gave up after a few minutes, jumped into their pick-up trucks and sped off back down the road to the town of Bin Jawad. Shells landed near the road as they retreated.

Without air strikes it appears the rebels are not able to make advances or even hold ground. The battle around Sirte, Gadhafi’s birthplace, will reveal if the rebel advance has reached its limit.

Reports that some Nawfaliyah residents had fought alongside government troops are an ominous sign for world powers hoping for a swift end to Gadhafi’s 41-year rule.

Gadhafi accused Western powers of massacres of Libyan civilians in alliance with rebels he said were al-Qaeda members. “Stop your brutal and unjust attack on our country ... Hundreds of Libyans are being killed because of this bombardment. Massacres are being mercilessly committed against the Libyan people,” he said in a letter to world leaders.

“We are a people united behind the leadership of the revolution, facing the terrorism of al-Qaeda on the one hand and on the other hand terrorism by Nato, which now directly supports the al-Qaeda,” Libya's official news agency quoted him as saying.

The rebels deny any al-Qaeda links and on Tuesday promised free and fair elections if Gadhafi is forced from power.

In western Libya, rebels and forces loyal to Gadhafi both claimed control over parts of Misrata, Libya’s third city which has been besieged by government forces for more than a month.

Libyan state television said thousands of people were taking part in a march in support of Gadhafi in Misrata, which it said had been “cleansed of armed terrorist gangs”. It was the third time the channel said Misrata had been recaptured from rebels.