Rebels fighting for the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have received a double dose of good news: one diplomatic, the other military.
Rebels say they have pushed to within 80 kilometres of the capital, Tripoli. A rebel spokesman told Reuters by telephone that both sides had suffered casualties and that his side had managed to capture equipment and vehicles.
Rebels are also fighting to the east of Tripoli, where they control Misrata around 200 kilometres from the capital. They are so far being blocked from making further progress by government forces in the neighbouring town of Zlitan.
A senior UN official has told the organisation’s Security Council that the rebels are gaining the upper hand in the struggle against Gaddafi. Under-Secretary-General for political affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said that “while we do not have a detailed understanding of the military situation on the ground, it is clear that the initiative, although halting, is now with the opposition forces, supported at times by NATO air power.”
Pascoe’s statement came hours after another boost for the rebels: the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and a former Libyan intelligence service minister. They are accused of orchestrating a “pre-meditated” plan to commit crimes against humanity. A spokesman for the rebel council in its stronghold, Benghazi, said that the ICC’s ruling “will only hasten the departure of Gaddafi and his regime.”
Three Libyan government ministers, including the foreign minister, are said to be in Tunisia for talks with “foreign parties”. It is not clear whether these talks relate to a peace deal. The rebel’s official organ, the National Transitional Council, said last week it was holding indirect talks with the Gaddafi regime.
Despite 100 days of NATO bombardments of pro-Gaddafi forces, the rebels’ advance has been slow and a resolution to the conflict, either diplomatic or military, seems stalled.