Rebels enter key Libyan town

The swift rebel advance on the town of Zawiyah, about 50 km west of Tripoli, will deal a psychological blow to Gadhafi’s supporters and severs the coastal highway to Tunisia which keeps the capital supplied with food and fuel.

There was no sign Tripoli was under immediate threat from a rebel attack: heavily armed pro-Gadhafi forces still lie between Zawiyah and the capital. Previous rebel advances have often been reversed, despite help from Nato warplanes.

But rebel forces are now in their strongest position since the uprising against 41 years of Gadhafi’s rule began in February. They now control the coast both east and west of Tripoli, to the north is the Mediterranean and a Nato naval blockade, while to the south is empty desert.

A spokesman for Gadhafi’s government denied on Sunday that Zawiyah was held by the rebels, saying it was “under our full control”. He did say there were small pockets of fighting in two other locations.

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