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Libyan rebels hope for military help

Protesters hold old national flags as they shout slogans against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi near the port of Benghazi, Libya along the Mediterranean coast on March 6, 2011. Loyal and rebel forces continue to battle for control of the country. UPI/Mohamaad Hosam
Protesters hold old national flags as they shout slogans against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi near the port of Benghazi, Libya along the Mediterranean coast on March 6, 2011. Loyal and rebel forces continue to battle for control of the country. UPI/Mohamaad Hosam | License Photo

TRIPOLI, Libya, March 11 (UPI) -- Libyan rebels urged other countries Friday to create a no-fly zone and launch airstrikes to prevent Moammar Gadhafi from retaking the country.

Iman Bugaighis, a spokeswoman for the Provisional Transitional National Council, said delay is allowing Gadhafi to consolidate his forces. While the rebels continue to hold Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, Gadhafi's forces have driven them out of most cities in western Libya.

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"If you don't want to do something, you rely on the diplomatic side. It is not enough when people are dying," Bugaighis said. "We need more than diplomacy. We need a no-fly zone but we need more than that. We need airstrikes. I think they know where to bomb if they want to bomb. They know how to intervene. It's urgent."

Photos: The revolt in Libya

She said the council is especially hopeful of aid from France, which recognized it Thursday as the legitimate representative of Libya.

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In the meantime, fighting continued in the west. Rebel fighter Ibrahim al-Alwani said he and other anti-government protesters in Ras Lanuf saw government troops and military equipment in the city's center, The Daily Telegraph reported.

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"I saw maybe 150 men and three tanks," he said. "I can hear clashes."

Mohammed al-Mughrabi, another rebel, told the British publication he saw four boats with 40-50 men in each landing near a hotel.

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"We are fighting them right now," he said.

Another anti-Gadhafi fighter in Ras Lanuf said rebels had fallen back but still controlled the residential areas.

Government warplanes and gunboats attacked rebel positions Thursday, killing at least four people, said a doctor at a hospital in Ajdabiya, where the wounded were brought. An airstrike also was reported in Brega.

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Western journalists in the city of Zawiyah confirmed Gadhafi's claims the city was in the hands of pro-government followers after days of fierce fighting, the BBC reported.

The uprising began in mid-February when anti-government protesters began demonstrating against Gadhafi's four-decade rule.

NATO defense ministers discussed the prospect of a no-fly zone Thursday, but determined more planning was needed.

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Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who has emerged as the main opposition leader, told the BBC the international community should follow France's lead by recognizing the rebel organization in Benghazi as Libya's legitimate government and asked for assistance in the fighting.

"Everybody should know that there is no balance between our capabilities and Moammar Gadhafi's," Jalil said. "He is besieging cities to ban people from leaving them."

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One of Gadhafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, warned rebels in Benghazi government troops were heading there.

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"This is our country. We will never, ever surrender," he said, adding international intervention would be repelled as well. "We will never ever welcome the Americans here. Libya is not a piece of cake; we are not a Mickey Mouse."

Meanwhile, three Dutch soldiers captured in a botched mission to help evacuate foreigners were released, the BBC said. The soldiers left Libya on a Greek military airplane and arrived in Athens Friday. International rights organizations and others estimate 1,000 to 2,000 people have died since the protests began.

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