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In response to a question from Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, Mr. Burns said there is a “very real danger” that if Col. Gadhafi prevails, Libya will resume its support for terrorism.

“There’s a great deal at stake here, and that’s what creates a real sense of urgency on our part,” Mr. Burns said.

For Mr. Hamid and most Libyans, it is the fate of Benghazi’s residents that is a more pressing concern.

“The only way Gadhafi will be able to retake Benghazi is if he were to kill a lot of people,” Mr. Hamid said, adding, “If we are concerned about crimes against humanity, then we should certainly prepare ourselves for another one in Benghazi.”