Libyan Oil Chief Defects as NATO Extends Campaign

Reuters | Libya's top oil official became the latest leading figure to desert Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday, complaining of "unbearable" violence and adding political momentum to a revolt against the leader's long rule.

In rebel-held eastern Libya, an explosion damaged a hotel used by rebels and foreigners in Benghazi, wounding one person, and police said rebel authorities believed the explosion might be linked to Gaddafi agents still operating in the east.

Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the rebel National Transitional Council, told Reuters the explosion outside Tibesti hotel was believed to have been caused by a hand grenade thrown in a "desperate attempt" by Gaddafi's loyalists to sow terror.

The defection by National Oil Corp head Shokri Ghanem, who is also a former prime minister, came two days after the defections of eight army officers including five generals and those in earlier weeks of senior diplomats and former ministers.

"I left the country and decided also to leave my job and to join the choice of Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans," he said.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome organized by the Libyan ambassador, who has also defected, Ghanem said he had left his job because of the "unbearable" violence in Libya.

NATO Attacks Kadhafi's Compound Again

TheAge | NATO carried out fresh bombing raids at the heart of Tripoli's regime on Saturday, the military alliance said after G8 world powers intensified the pressure on Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi to go.

The alliance launched a first salvo at 1:00 am (2300 GMT Friday) followed by another strike nine hours later in Kadhafi's Bab Al-Aziziya compound, which NATO aircraft have targeted for four successive days.

The strikes came after US President Barack Obama had said the United States and France were committed to finishing the job in Libya, and as Russia finally joined explicit calls for Kadhafi to go.

"We are joined in our resolve to finish the job," Obama said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit of industrialised democracies in France.

British Attack helicopters To Be Deployed In Libya

The Telegraph | British attack helicopters will be deployed in Libya within days in a significant expansion of the military mission against Muammar Gaddafi’s forcesThe Daily Telegraph has learned that Apache helicopters will fly into Libya from a Royal Navy warship, in a joint operation with the French.

As many as 18 British and French helicopters will be deployed to support rebels trying to consolidate gains against Gaddafi’s forces.

The helicopter operation – expected to be supported by Special Forces troops – will take the allies closer still to a full ground operation in Libya.

Whitehall officials said that later this week, the Apaches will begin flying missions in from HMS Ocean, a helicopter carrier in the Mediterranean.

Their use was authorised by David Cameron at a meeting of the National Security Council after the Prime Minister asked military chiefs for new ways to increase the pressure on the Libyan regime.

RAF Jets Sink Libyan Navy Ships

Guardian | All fighting ships of the Libyan navy have been sunk or severely damaged by RAF jets in a strike that Nato said has crippled the ability of Muammar Gaddafi's forces to lay mines.

The ships were hit during a raid on Thursday night on Tripoli and Al Khums. One warship remained afloat but listing at its mooring between two merchant tankers. Fire and smoke were visible from miles away.

Of the rest of the fleet, docked out of view in the main port in Tripoli, one vessel was sunk and three severely damaged. All four were raid boats with fast manoeuvrability. At least three appeared to have surface-to-air missile launchers.

Another Libyan naval vessel was hit in the port of Al Khums, east of the capital. The RAF said the fleet had been hit to prevent it laying mines or threatening Nato warships enforcing UN-backed restrictions off Libya.

None of the ships had been seen putting to sea in daylight during the past three weeks.

White House Says Doesn't Need Congressional Permission

ABCNEWS | In an effort to satisfy those arguing he needs to seek congressional authorization to continue US military activity in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders this afternoon suggesting that the role is now so “limited” he does not need to seek congressional approval.

“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”

A senior administration official told ABC News that the letter is intended to describe “a narrow US effort that is intermittent and principally an effort to support to support the ongoing NATO-led and UN-authorized civilian support mission and no fly zone.”

“The US role is one of support,” the official said, “and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.”