- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Opponents of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi slammed the Obama administration Tuesday for failing to support a no-fly zone over the North African nation and recognize their provisional government as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Mahmoud Jibril, a representative of the rebel National Transitional Council, in Paris on Monday evening.

In phone interviews with The Washington Times, council officials expressed disappointment with the Obama administrations reluctance to act on their requests for air cover to keep Col. Gadhafi’s warplanes from attacking rebel ground forces.

Council spokesman Abdul Hafidh Ghoga said the opposition wants “action and not just nice words” from the United States.

“How can we be satisfied with the U.S. reaction, since they have not taken any serious steps to put an end to this genocide that is being committed against the Libyan people,” Mr. Ghoga, who spoke in Arabic, said through an interpreter.

“Nice words can only go so far, but action is what really counts.”

Forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi continued their offensive on Tuesday, using heavy artillery and airstrikes against poorly armed opponents.

Residents in the city of Adjabiya in northeast Libya reported a barrage of airstrikes. They said one of the bombs struck a hospital.

They also said Libyan fighter pilots who defected to the rebels with their planes sank two pro-Gadhafi warships off the coastal town. However, the claim could not be independently verified.

A fierce battle also raged for control of Brega, a key oil port.

In a setback for the rebels, Col. Gadhafi’s troops seized control of Zwara near the Tunisian border. The city was the last rebel-held territory west of Tripoli.

A source close to the council in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, expressed his frustration at the U.S. position.

“I dont know what [the U.S. is] waiting for. More casualties,” the source told The Washington Times, asking not to be identified out of concern for the safety of his family.

“It seems that because of the lack of real assertive answer from the international community, [Col. Gadhafi] is gaining momentum,” he added.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Col. Gadhafi predicted the rebels will be defeated.

“There are only two possibilities: Surrender or run away,” he said.

Mr. Ghoga accused the international community of engaging in endless debate at the cost of Libyan lives.

“We are having an annihilation of the Libyan people, and the international community is still putting things away for discussion. What we are looking for is prompt action,” he said.

“The longer this crisis goes on, the people are going to lose their faith in the Western system and the democracy that is being marketed by them.”

Meanwhile, leaders of the eight most industrialized nations continued to talk in Paris, but the Group of Eight made no mention of a no-fly zone.

A State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Jibril discussed “what more the U.S. and others can do to address the situation in Libya.”

“The U.S. will continue to assess the situation as we move forward toward further determinations,” the official added.

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

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