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Libyan Oil Chief Defects as NATO Extends Campaign

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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.

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.”


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Gaddafi Makes First Public Appearance In Weeks


DailyMail | The International Criminal Court is set to issue an arrest warrant for Colonel Gaddafi, it has been announced.

Italy's Foreign Minister said the warrant issued at the end of the month would be a 'key moment' in the Libyan crisis, as the dictator today made his first public appearance in weeks.

Franco Frattini said the warrant would make it 'impossible' for the Libyan leader to leave the country in exile as 'all the international community would have legal obligations'.

Colonel Gaddafi has made his first public appearance for weeks after a NATO air strike on Tripoli killed his youngest son and three grandchildren.

The Libyan dictator - who was filmed talking with tribal leaders in a hotel in the capital - was last seen in public on April 9.

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NATO Air Strikes Hit Gaddafi Compound Again


AFP | NATO-led air strikes hit Muammar Gaddafi's compound, killing three people, the Libyan regime said, as rebels celebrated the capture of Misrata airport and fresh diplomatic coups in the West.

The pre-dawn strikes in the capital Tripoli came just hours after Libyan state television showed what it said was footage of Gaddafi meeting tribal leaders, the first new video of him aired since an April 30 air strike that his government termed an attempt on his life.

"Three people died - two of them are journalists and one was their guide who was helping them film a documentary," government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a news conference in the Bab al-Aziziya compound that was held next to a large, water-filled crater.

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NATO Strike Kills Gadhafi's Son But Gadhafi Survives


Washington Post | Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli on Saturday, but his youngest son and three grandchildren under the age of 12 were killed, a government spokesman said.

The strike, which came hours after Gadhafi called for a cease-fire and negotiations in what rebels called a publicity stunt, marked an escalation of international efforts to prevent the Libyan regime from regaining momentum. Rebels honked horns and chanted “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” while speeding through the western city of Misrata, which Gadhafi’s forces have besieged and subjected to random shelling for two months, killing hundreds. Fireworks were set off in front of the central Hikma hospital, causing a brief panic that the light would draw fire from Gadhafi’s forces.

The attack struck the house of Gadhafi’s youngest son, Seif al-Arab, when the Libyan leader and his wife were inside. White House spokesman Shin Inouye declined to comment on the developments in Libya, referring questions to NATO.


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NATO Forces Strike Gadhafi's Compound

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NewsDay | NATO forces have bombed an area close to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, hitting what reporters described as a military installation.

The strike early Saturday set off alarms in the capital, but caused no injuries.

Libyan officials described the site that was hit as a parking lot.  But reporters on the scene say two bomb craters exposed a layer of reinforced concrete covering what appeared to be a bunker.  They said ammunition crates also lay close by.

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