TRIPOLI, Libya, March 9 (UPI) -- A rebel leader in eastern Libya pleaded Wednesday for a no-fly zone over Libya while Moammar Gadhafi said such an action would unite the country behind him.
In an exclusive interview with CNN from his stronghold, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the interim government in eastern Libya, said: "It has to be immediate action (by the international community). The longer the situation carries on, the more blood is shed. That's the message that we want to send to the international community. They have to live up to their responsibility with regards to this."
In an interview with Turkish television, Gadhafi said a no-fly zone's real goal would be to seize Libya's oil fields, the BBC reported.
"If they take such a decision, it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil," Gadhafi said in the interview. "Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them."
The Gadhafi regime announced a reward of more than $410,000 for Abdul Jalil Wednesday, saying he was a spy.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said a decision to impose a no-fly zone should be made by the United Nations, not Washington.
Britain and France reportedly were working on a U.N. Security Council resolution for a no-fly zone. However, Russia, which has veto power, has said it opposes military intervention.
With calls for international military intervention rising, NATO officials were briefing governments on a range of options to be presented to defense ministers in Brussels Thursday, The Washington Post reported.
Abdul Jalil leads the opposition's National Transitional Council, which represents most regions in Libya but meets in Benghazi. The eastern town that has become an opposition stronghold.
Meanwhile, Gadhafi's army fought to recapture the key oil refinery town of Ras Lanuf Wednesday.
Black smoke rose over Ras Lanuf as rebels came under artillery and possible air assault, The New York Times reported. A large fireball may have come from a refinery being hit, but that could not be confirmed.
The rebels have been struggling to advance westward toward Tripoli from Ras Lanuf.
Cheers and celebratory gunfire rang out in Benghazi, the opposition's provisional capital, Wednesday, when al-Jazeera and other Arabic media reported that rebel fighters had pushed back into Bin Jawad, near Ras Lanuf, where government forces had held them off for four days.
In the west, Gadhafi's forces shelled the suburbs of Zawiyah and tried to seize control of the city's main square, witnesses said.
Zawiyah, which fell to the rebels two weeks ago, is nearly isolated. Reports indicate heavy shelling and considerable loss of life, the BBC reported.
The government claimed to have retaken most of the city Wednesday. One resident reported seeing 50 tanks and dozens of trucks loaded with Gadhafi loyalists, the British broadcaster said.
In Cairo, Maj. Gen. Abdel Rahman Ben Ali, Gadhafi's deputy minister of logistics, was received by Egyptian military intelligence, officials told the Times. The purpose of the meeting was not known.
International rights organizations and others estimate 1,000 to 2,000 people have died since protests against Gadhafi's four-decade rule began nearly three weeks ago. The United Nations estimates about 212,000 people have fled the country.
During an address on state television, Gadhafi said European governments and al-Qaida were trying to divide the country, a statement he has made in other speeches.
With calls for international military intervention rising, NATO officials are briefing governments on a range of options to be presented to defense ministers in Brussels Thursday, The Washington Post reports.