The failure of the opposition forces to advance beyond their eastern stronghold of Ajdabiyah and their inability to break the siege over Misurata, imposed by forces loyal to Libyan strongman, Muammar Qadhafi, has reinforced calls for the entry of foreign forces in the combat zone.

An opposition official in Misurata has appealed to Britain and France to send in their troops to liberate Libya’s third largest city from the clutches of pro-Qadhafi forces. AFP quoted Nuri Abdullah Abdullati, a senior member of Misurata’s governing council, as saying that these troops should be sent on the basis of “humanitarian principles”.

On Wednesday, there was heavy fighting along Misurata’s Tripoli Street, which leads into the city center from the southern outskirts. An opposition spokesman said that dissident forces and Qadhafi-loyalists were each holding on to 50 per cent of the street.

With world opinion not in favour of the deployment of outside forces, there are some among the opposition supporters who are calling for a bigger Arab military role in defusing the crisis.

Al Jazeera quoted Omar Ashour, director of Middle East studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter as saying that neighbouring Arab countries could contribute more to train and arm opposition fighters. “Egypt can play a much better role at that. It’s time for Egypt to capitalise on this … and take its role in promoting democracy and ending dictatorships,” he said.

“If you send boots on the ground from Western powers this may give some legitimacy to Qadhafi despite multiple crimes against humanity. But if there were involvement from Arab and Muslim countries that would boost the legitimacy of the transitional national council and will also give an Arab and Islamic dimension to the crisis, which is something that can boost the revolutionaries for sure.”

Meanwhile, in the western parts of the country under the regime’s control, NATO air strikes have been escalating. Libyan state television is reporting that NATO warplanes have attacked telecommunication and broadcasting infrastructure in several Libyan cities. “Telecommunication infrastructure, and radio and television broadcasting stations in several Libyan cities were subject to bombardment by warplanes of the crusader colonial aggression,” it said.

Western officials, however, asserted that NATO was only attacking military targets in line with the UN-mandate of imposing a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians.

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