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Briefly: Middle East
Rebels pledge assault on Gadhafi stronghold
HEISHA — Libyan rebels pledged Tuesday to launch an assault within days on Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown, the ousted strongman’s last major bastion of support, while a top official said the rebels have a “good idea” where Col. Gadhafi is hiding.
The rebels and NATO said that Gadhafi loyalists were negotiating the fate of Sirte, a heavily militarized city some 250 miles east of the capital, Tripoli.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council, said that negotiations with forces in Sirte would end Saturday after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when the rebels would “act decisively and militarily.”
We can’t wait more than that,” he told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi. “We seek and support any efforts to enter these places peacefully. At the end, it might be decided militarily. I hope it will not be the case.”
Security forces kill 7 as holy month ends
BEIRUT — Syrian security forces killed at least seven people, including a 13-year-old boy, as thousands of protesters poured out of mosques and marched through cemeteries Tuesday at the start of Eid al-Fitr, a holiday when pious Muslims traditionally visit graves and pray for the dead.
The three-day holiday marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a time of introspection that many protesters had hoped would become a turning point in the 5-month-old uprising.
Instead, the government crackdown on dissent intensified and the conflict has become a bloody stalemate.
“They can shoot and kill as much as they want, we will not stop calling for regime change,” an activist in Daraa told the Associated Press by telephone, asking for anonymity out of fear of reprisals.
In Washington, the Obama administration announced a new set of sanctions on Syria. The regulations ban Americans from doing business with President Bashar Assad’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and two other senior officials, senior adviser Buthaina Shaaban; and Ali Abdul Karim Ali, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon.
The Treasury Department’s action Tuesday also blocks any assets the Syrian officials may have in the United States.
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