- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2011

Many Libyans oppose the idea of Western troops on the shores of Tripoli, as the Obama administration and its allies on Monday said no option is off the table in their effort to oust longtime dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

“We have to get him ourselves,” said a resident of Tripoli, who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear for his life.

Others warned that any foreign army on Libyan soil will meet the same resistance that Col. Gadhafi’s troops are now facing, but many also endorsed a no-fly zone patrolled by foreign fighter aircraft to prevent Libyan forces from attacking anti-government protesters.

“We don’t want U.S. troops on the ground. We would, however, support an intervention by U.N. troops because the U.N. doesn’t have any political agenda,” said Ashraf Tulty, a Libyan dissident currently residing in the United States.

The U.S. military has deployed naval and air units near Libya, and in remarks to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left open the possibility of military intervention against the Gadhafi regime.

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration will continue to explore “all possible options for action.”

“As we have said, nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyans,” she said.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Wendy Snyder told The Times some U.S. forces in the region were being repositioned.

“To provide the president with flexibility of a full range of options, we need to take a look at everything,” Cmdr. Snyder said. “We are repositioning some forces in the region.”

Mr. Tulty said a majority of Libyans would support a U.S. airstrike on Col. Gadhafi’s compound and said such an action would provide “very strong strategic support to the revolution.”

In 1986, President Reagan ordered an air strike on Col. Gadhafi’s compound in retaliation for Libya’s bombing of a West German disco that killed two U.S. soldiers.

“There is a large consensus that [Libyans] do not want outside intervention,” said Khaled Mattawa, a Libyan-American poet and professor at the University of Michigan who has been in regular contact with friends in Libya.

Libyans instead favor the protective cover of a no-fly zone.

Their plea took on a sense of urgency amid reports that aircraft had bombed a radio station and the airport in Misurata, a rebel-held city east of Tripoli.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration is “considering actively and seriously” the possibility of a no-fly zone in discussions with its NATO allies.

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had instructed the Ministry of Defense and chief of the defense staff to work with Britain’s allies on plans for a no-fly zone.

Speaking to members of Parliament, Mr. Cameron described the Gadhafi regime as “illegitimate.”

“My message to Col. Gadhafi is simple: Go now,” Mr. Cameron said.

On Monday, the Treasury Department announced that the United States has frozen $30 billion in Libyan government assets under U.S. jurisdiction.

Ms. Rice described the amount as “unprecedented,” adding, “and this in light of the fact that Col. Gaddafi and his son Saif say they have no resources out there to be seized; they led a clean and uncorrupt life.”

Meanwhile, residents of Tripoli reported violence in the Tajoura neighborhood. They said several people had been killed.

Heavy fighting was reported around the rebel-controlled cities of Misurata and Az Zawiya, which are flanked by cities controlled by Col. Gadhafi’s forces.

Pro-government troops have been using the town of Surman as a base from which to attack cities held by the rebels. Surman is controlled by the father-in-law of Col. Gadhafi’s son Saadi. Gadhafi loyalists also retain control of his tribal stronghold, Surt.

In Zanzour on the outskirts of Tripoli, residents said boys as young as 14 were being dragged from their homes by mercenaries.

Meanwhile, an online video surfaced in which Col. Gadhafi’s eldest son, Saif al-Islam, is seen atop a tank, machine gun in hand, whipping the regime’s supporters into a frenzy against their opponents.

Pro-democracy protesters and military deserters have joined forces against the Gadhafi regime. As their ranks have swelled, so has their confidence.

“People are talking much more about being able to attack the regime. They are confident they can march on Tripoli, but the worry is how many weapons [Col. Gadhafi] has,” Mr. Mattawa said.

Libyans say security forces and African mercenaries loyal to the Gadhafi regime have used heavy weapons against unarmed civilians.

At the meeting in Geneva, Mrs. Clinton said Col. Gadhafi and his regime “must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency.”

“The international community is speaking with one voice, and our message is unmistakable,” she said.

On Tuesday, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council.

“Governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place in this chamber,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Residents of Tripoli, meanwhile, said the price of food has skyrocketed in recent days. They said the regime has promised 500 Libyan dinars to Libyans who present their “family book,” a form of photo identification. Long lines formed outside banks in the capital; however, few residents said they had received the money. Others said they would never take the money.

“I am not going to take this bribe,” said a Tripoli resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the unrest that has swept the Arab world is spreading in Africa. In Zimbabwe, 45 human-rights activists were charged with treason after they took part in a meeting in the capital, Harare, titled “Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What Lessons Can Be Learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa.”

“To arrest these 45 people for having attended a single meeting to discuss current events in Egypt and Tunisia is surprising. But charging them with treason, where each faces the death penalty, and then, given the lack of evidence in the case, horrendously torturing many of them to persuade some to become state witnesses is deplorable,” said Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, which has been retained by the group as its international counsel.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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