Tripoli Denies Rebel Capture of Western Port Town


The Libyan government insisted Zawiyah was under the regime's control on Saturday, dismissing rebel claims of having captured the port city on the road to Tripoli.

Zawiyah is completely under government control, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters in the capital.

"A very small group of rebels tried to enter from the south of Zawiyah but they were stopped easily" by the Libyan armed forces.

The rebels had earlier told an Arabic satellite channel they had captured the town, as a bus transporting foreign journalists traveling from neighboring Tunisia was on Saturday forced to turn back as it neared Zawiya.

Ibrahim said less than 100 fighters tried to enter the town to join up with about 50 rebels inside Zawiya. Government forces were dealing with the situation, he said.

This is not an advance. This is what you call a skirmish, what you call a suicide mission," he said.

"You have to remember we are very powerful. Tens of thousands of volunteers are armed right now, he claimed, adding "it doesn’t matter whether NATO advances or not, whether rebels advance or not, because we will always be able to fight, in a year’s time, in two years, in three years."

"We say to NATO, we say to the international community, stop this aggression, and let's talk peace."

Since the beginning of the revolt six months ago NATO has used sanctions, diplomacy and air raids to try to cleave off parts of Gadhafi's inner circle in the hope of hitting the regime's tipping point.

Government forces retook control of Zawiyah, 40 kilometers west of Tripoli, in March after battles with the rebels, who launched an uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in mid-February.