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Libya rebels prepare for push on Tripoli: reports

Libya rebel leaders said this weekend that will try to recapture territory on the road to Tripoli, which could put them within striking distance of the capital.

By Correspondent / July 3, 2011

Libyan rebel military spokesman Ahmed Bani discusses plans to advance on Tripoli on Saturday.

Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

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Leaders of Libya’s rebel forces say they are ready to launch an offensive toward Tripoli, the capital city controlled by embattled leader Muammar Qaddafi, from an enclave southwest of the capital.

The announcement came after NATO intensified airstrikes in the west of the country and as the African Union (AU) put forward a plan for peace negotiations and urged its member states not to honor an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for Colonel Qaddafi.

Rebel spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani told reporters in Benghazi, the rebel capital in the east, late on Saturday that rebel fighters will advance from their stronghold in the Nafusa mountains within two days, reports the AFP international news service. They will try to recapture territory on the plains, on the road to Tripoli, which could put them within striking distance of the capital.

Last week, rebel forces retreated from Bir al Ghanam, just 50 miles from the capital, after being attacked by Libyan forces.

"[It] was obviously a strategic withdrawal because of the battlefield situation and the amount of bombardment that the revolutionary forces were receiving," said Colonel Bani, according to Reuters. "But we hope to counter that within the next 48 hours."

The four-and-a-half-month conflict in Libya has begun to look more and more like a stalemate as the two sides advance and retreat over the same territory. But the rebels have help: Last week, France airdropped weapons to the rebels in the west, and NATO said Saturday it has increased its airstrikes on Libyan government forces targets in the west. The coalition has hit more than 50 targets in the west past week, reports the Associated Press.

AU criticizes ICC arrest warrant

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