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Unrest Across The Middle East
A round up of both the political protests and efforts in the Middle East this weekend
February 26, 2011 1:32 by Reuters
Fighting in Tripoli on Friday showed mounting pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the latest veteran Arab strongman to face unprecedented popular revolt.
There were also protests in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as political efforts to appease grievances among Arab populations. The following is a snapshot of top stories.
TRIPOLI – Government forces shot dead protesters, television stations reported, as unrest broke out across the city assumed to be the last stronghold of leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi told supporters in Green Square: “We can crush any enemy. We can crush it with the people’s will. The people are armed and when necessary, we will open arsenals to arm all the Libyan people and all Libyan tribes.”
Witnesses described swirling clashes on the streets between security forces loyal to Gaddafi and crowds of protesters after Friday Muslim prayers. Al Jazeera said two people had been killed and several wounded in heavy shooting in several districts. Al Arabiya said seven people had been killed.
“I think Tripoli is in uprising,” one man told Reuters in the centre of the city. “When you go to Green Square you find it full of Gaddafi supporters. In other areas, they went out after Friday prayers and they are demonstrating against Gaddafi.”
RAS JDIR, Tunisia – Libyan security forces tried to seize back control of the coastal town of Zawiyah, about 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital, but were driven back by government opponents, witnesses said. The strategic town, site of an oil terminal on the main highway into Tripoli, has become the focus of a stand-off between forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi, and civilians — some of them armed — who want an end to his 41 years in power. “There are corpses everywhere … It’s a war in the true sense of the word,” said Akila Jmaa, who crossed over into Tunisia on Friday after travelling from the town.
ISTANBUL- Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam said the family had no intention of fleeing Libya, and the government was in control of the west, south and centre of the country. “We have plans A, B and C. Plan A is to live and die in Libya. Plan B is to live and die in Libya. Plan C is to live and die in Libya,” he said.
BENGHAZI, Libya – Libya’s rebel-held city of Benghazi has filled a political void with a coalition which is cleaning up, providing food, building defences, reassuring foreign oil firms and telling Tripoli it believes in one nation. After noon prayers, about 6,000 Benghazi residents voiced solidarity with Tripoli protesters and ruled out splitting the country, saying they wanted Libya united. “God make our brothers in Tripoli victorious,” they chanted.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council plans to meet on Friday to receive a French-British draft proposal for sanctions against Libyan leaders over the deadly attacks on demonstrators there, council envoys said. No vote is expected on the draft elements of a sanctions resolution when the 15-nation council convenes at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT), Western diplomats said.
BRUSSELS – European Union governments reached consensus on Friday on imposing an arms embargo, asset freezes and a travel ban on Libya, but a formal decision will only be taken early next week, diplomats said. After a meeting of ambassadors from the 27 member states, no objections were raised to the idea of imposing sanctions on Gaddafi and his crumbling government, but the legal language and other details have still to be finalised.
WASHINGTON – A ferry carrying hundreds of Americans and other evacuees finally sailed from Libya on Friday, removing what U.S. officials feared could be used as a bargaining chip by an embattled Muammar Gaddafi.
BUDAPEST – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had called an emergency NATO council meeting for Friday afternoon to discuss the situation in Libya.
GENEVA – The U.N. human rights forum on Friday condemned violence by Libyan forces and launched an international inquiry into atrocities it said may amount to crimes against humanity.
ANKARA – French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday Gaddafi had to leave but cautioned against military action in the North African state.”Mr Gaddafi must leave,” Sarkozy told a news conference on a visit to Turkey.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury has told American banks to closely monitor transactions that may be related to unrest in Libya for any sign state assets were being misappropriated.
BENGHAZI, Libya – Rebels in eastern Libya said they now controlled most of the oil fields east of the town of Ras Lanuf, and said they would honour oil deals as long as they were in the interest of the people.
BREGA, Libya – The eastern Libyan town of Brega and its oil terminal are under rebel control, and soldiers who have defected are helping rebels to secure the port, Reuters journalists saw.
ISTANBUL – Gaddafi will never resort to destroying Libya’s oil wealth in its fight to put down an insurrection, the Libyan leader’s son Saif al-Islam told Turkish news channel CNN-Turk. “We will never demolish the sources of oil. They belong to the people,” he said in an interview.
DUBAI/PARIS – Saudi Arabia has raised oil output about 8 percent to above 9 million barrels per day (bpd) to make up for a near halt in Libyan exports, an industry source said, helping prices fall further from the highest since 2008. Some European oil firms said they were looking to buy more crude from Iran and the West’s energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency, said there was no need for an immediate strategic stock release.
GADDAFI LOSES ALLIES
CAIRO – The Libyan delegation to the Arab League in Cairo renounced links to Gaddafi and said it now represented the will of the people.
GENEVA – A Libyan U.N. envoy to the U.N. renounced links to the government of Gaddafi, telling the U.N. Human Rights Council that his entire delegation represented the “free will” of the Libyan people.
PARIS – Libya’s ambassador to France and another diplomat from Tripoli resigned on Friday, a Libyan official said.
ADEN – One person was killed in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Friday when more than 10,000 people took to the streets demanding the impoverished country’s veteran ruler to step down.
SANAA – Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh held rival demonstrations in the capital on Friday, in a test of support for the veteran leader.
BAGHDAD – Thousands of Iraqis inspired by uprisings around the Arab world protested on Friday against corruption and poor basic services in nationwide rallies that provoked sporadic clashes with security forces. At least five people were killed and 75 injured in skirmishes during Iraq’s “Day of Rage” when demonstrators tried to storm government buildings and security personnel fired shots in the air to try to disperse them.
The most violent clashes occurred in Hawija and Mosul in the oil-rich north and the southern oil hub of Basra.
CAIRO – Egypt’s new military rulers, promising to guard against “counter-revolution”, faced political pressure on Friday to purge the cabinet of ministers appointed by Hosni Mubarak as thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo. In the gathering at Tahrir Square, which also reminded the military of the people power that ended Mubarak’s 30-year iron rule, activists urged the military to overhaul the newly appointed cabinet and install a fresh team of technocrats.
TUNIS – Tens of thousands of people filled the streets of central Tunis on Friday in what they called a “day of rage”, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a former ally of the ousted president. The demonstration appeared to be the biggest since uprisings in North Africa’s most developed country ended President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year rule on Jan. 14 and sparked pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, witnesses said.
AMMAN – Around 5,000 protesters demanded political liberalisation, wider parliamentary representation and constitutional changes limiting the powers of the throne.
WASHINGTON – A senior aide to President Barack Obama has told Bahrain’s crown prince that the United States welcomes that government’s steps toward a dialogue with protesters but urged restraint by security forces, the White House said on Friday.