Libyan planes bomb refinery in Sidra

As the international momentum builds up for a no-fly zone, Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi has warned of unleashing a people's war that would target the West if he was denied the use of his warplanes to fight a spirited opposition which was fighting to unseat his regime.

In an interview with Turkish television, he said the West wanted to seize Libyan oil, and the imposition of a no-fly zone would be a step in that direction. “If they take such a decision [to impose a no-fly zone], it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil,” Mr. Qadhafi told Turkey's TRT television. He added: “Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them.”

But by Wednesday, in an apparent act of desperation, regime planes have bombed the refinery in Sidra, Al Jazeera reported. In Benghazi, anti-regime protesters said the Sidra bombing will further intensify the demands in the west for the imposition of a no-fly zone.

“Now with this bombing the Americans and other sceptics in the West will be spurred to impose a no-fly zone and stop this man from repeating this cowardly act,” Tawfik Mansury, an opposition activist said.

Opposition forces have also rebuffed a regime attack with tanks, brought from the Qadhafi- stronghold of Sirte. In Benghazi, anti-Qadhafi forces celebrated the news with long bursts of celebratory fire. Others in chorus accompanied the firing with loud chants of “Allahu Akbar,” the patent slogan of the Libyan uprising.

Earlier, responding to the demands for a no-fly zone, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has said any decision on a no-fly zone over Libya rests with the United Nations. Britain and France are working on a Security Council resolution for a no-fly zone.

However, Russia has so far opposed military intervention in Libya.

No-fly zones had been imposed in Bosnia in 1994-95, and in northern and southern Iraq in the aftermath of the first gulf war in 1991.

Reinforcing his threats against the U.S. and Europe, Mr. Qadhafi said on Wednesday in an early morning address on Libyan state television that Europe was conniving with Al-Qaeda to divide Libya. Mr. Qadhafi warned the opposition in Benghazi that his supporters would hound them out from the city, Libya's second largest, with its courthouse, the epicentre of the revolt. “There is no choice for the people of Benghazi but to go out on the streets — men, women and children to rid Benghazi of this betrayal,” he said. “Benghazi, which used to be beautiful, is turning into ruins. It must be liberated.”

Mr. Qadhafi's intimidatory address has followed a bloody assault on Zawiya, an oil town with an export terminal which is only 50 km west of capital Tripoli. In trying to dislodge opposition forces who have been for a week in control of Zawiya, pro-Qadhafi forces have resorted to heavy shelling and an assault with dozens of tanks. Reuters is reporting that the Zawiya refinery has been shut down.

“There are many dead people and they can't even bury them,” Reuters quoted a pro-opposition fighter as saying. Libyan state television claimed that Zawiya had been “liberated” from the rebels.

“Security is at about 95%. There are some rats that could be lying in some alleys and inside some flats. We are capturing them one group after the other,” said a Libyan Army captain.

  • West wants to seize oil, says Qadhafi
  • Opposition pins hope on no-fly zone