Libya rebels ask France for more help
Military leaders from the rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday for extra aid to defeat ruler Moamer Kadhafi, a member of their delegation said.
Sarkozy held talks at his Elysee presidential palace with rebel General Ramadan Zarmuh, Colonel Ahmed Hashem and Colonel Brahim Betal Mal, as well as Suleiman Fortia, a local representative of the rebel leadership in Misrata.
"With a little bit of help, we will be in Tripoli very soon. Very soon means days," Fortia told reporters after a meeting with Sarkozy. "We are here in France to discuss how we can do the job."
France is taking part in NATO-coordinated strikes against Kadhafi's military assets and was the first outside state to formally recognise the rebels' Transitional National Council.
It has already dropped arms to the rebels in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli, to help them defend themselves against Kadhafi's forces.
"Insurgent commanders came to explain to the head of state that the keys to Tripoli are in Misrata," said a supporter of the rebels, French writer Bernard-Henri Levy, who attended the talks.
"Misrata's fighters are disciplined, battle hardened and they have a key asset: a military victory already won" against forces loyal to Kadhafi, Levy told AFP after the meeting.
Misrata, around 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of Tripoli, has been controlled by rebels since mid-May, after a two-month siege by Kadhafi forces.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said Wednesday that Kadhafi is losing control of crucial energy supplies as the rebels advance in the key oil town of Brega, in Misrata and the Nafusa mountains.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said the Libyan strongman was "cut off from fuel and cash."
French foreign minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday that France accepts Kadhafi could stay in Libya under a ceasefire if he quits politics.
"The ceasefire comes about by a formal and clear commitment by Kadhafi to give up his civil and military responsibilities," Juppe told LCI television.
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Kadhafi on charges of crimes against humanity during his crackdown on the uprising against him that began in mid-February.
It is unclear whether he would avoid being taken to the court in The Netherlands if he remains in Libya under a ceasefire deal.
© 2011 AFP