Kadhafi plays chess as fighting rages across Libya

13th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi ruled out giving up power, in comments reportedly made during a chess game, as fighting between his forces and rebels seeking to topple him raged in Libya's east and west.

Mikhail Margelov, the special envoy of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said in Moscow on Monday meanwhile he would visit Tripoli next week to hold talks on the Libya conflict.

State television broadcast footage of Kadhafi playing chess with head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who later said he had easily got the better of the Libyan leader on the board during Sunday's game in Tripoli.

The Russian eccentric who once claimed he hosted extraterrestrials, also sat down for a game of chess with Kadhafi's son Muhammad and the two played the Sicilian defence, Russia's Interfax news agency said.

"The meeting lasted around two hours, we played some chess with Kadhafi," Ilyumzhinov, who is on a visit to Tripoli in his capacity as FIDE president, told Interfax.

"Kadhafi stated that he is not going to leave Libya, stressing that it is his motherland and a land where his children and grandchildren died. He also said that he does not understand which post he needs to step down from."

"I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up," Ilyumzhinov quoted Kadhafi as telling him.

The chess chief told Moscow Echo radio by telephone on Monday from Libya that he found Kadhafi to be "calm... normal and adequate. We played chess and we talked."

The chessboard encounter came as fighting between Kadhafi's forces and rebels raged across Libya, with casualties reported in Zintan and near Brega, and the regime saying it had eliminated resistance in Zawiyah west of the capital.

Battles were also being fought in the Berber mountains southwest of Tripoli, in nearby Yafran, and at Dafnia near Misrata, Libya's third city, rebel sources told AFP.

An AFP correspondent said Kadhafi's forces pounded the outskirts of Zintan on Sunday, killing at least seven rebels.

Government forces posted a few kilometres (miles) east of Zintan, which remains under rebel control, fired Grad and Katyusha rockets at the town.

The AFP reporter said after visiting the local hospital that at least seven Libyan rebels were killed and 49 wounded in the bombardment.

And in the east of the country, which is largely under the control of the insurgents, a rebel commander told AFP that four of his fighters were killed and 30 wounded in clashes on Sunday with Kadhafi's forces on the frontline between the towns of Ajdabiya and Brega.

Intense rocket fire and shelling rocked an area half-way between Ajdabiya and Brega early on Sunday but "all is calm this morning," Mussa el-Mograbi said on Monday, contacted by telephone.

NATO said it was taking "necessary action" to protect civilians.

"NATO is monitoring the situation closely and is taking necessary action to protect civilians," a statement by the western alliance said.

"Along the north-west coast of Libya between Tripoli and the Tunisian border Libyans long tired of Kadhafi rule are challenging his legitimacy openly, and in doing so, are under threat of attack," it said.

In Tripoli, the regime spokesman said its forces had eliminated rebel "pockets of resistance" at Zawiyah west of the capital.

Mussa Ibrahim told reporters that Kadhafi's forces had "total control" of the area from Ajdabiya in the east to the Tunisian border in the west.

He denied reports that the rebels were gaining ground, while at the same time acknowledging clashes at Zawiyah but playing down their intensity.

"It is pockets of resistance. The rebels there are no more than a hundred. The army has killed some of them, captured others and is negotiating the surrender of others," Ibrahim said.

He also reiterated that the regime rejected any talks about Kadhafi leaving the country.

"No one has the right to demand that the leader stand down. No one can come here with a plan that includes his departure," he said, adding such an idea is "immoral, illegal and has no sense."

Russian envoy Margelov told the RIA Novosti news agency he would travel to Tripoli next week.

"Currently we are finishing talks alongside the Russian foreign ministry on the security of my trip to Tripoli," he said.

Margelov last week met the opposition in their Benghazi stronghold, as Russia positions itself as a possible mediator in the conflict. However it is not clear if he would meet with Kadhafi in Tripoli.


© 2011 AFP

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