Libyan rebels urge west to assassinate Gaddafi as his forces near Benghazi
Appeal to be made as G8 foreign ministers consider whether to back French and British calls for a no-fly zone over Libya
Mustafa Gheriani, spokesman for the revolutionary national council in its stronghold of Benghazi, said the appeal was to be made by a delegation meeting the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in Paris on Monday, as G8 foreign ministers gathered there to consider whether to back French and British calls for a no-fly zone over Libya.
"We are telling the west we want a no-fly zone, we want tactical strikes against those tanks and rockets that are being used against us and we want a strike against Gaddafi's compound," said Gheriani. "This is the message from our delegation in Europe."
But with diplomatic wrangling focused on the issue of the no-fly zone, there appeared to be little immediate prospect of a foreign military assault on Gaddafi's forces, let alone an air strike against the Libyan dictator.
But the rebels' appeal is also a recognition that while a no-fly zone would provide a boost to them, their military defeats of recent days have largely been under an onslaught of rockets and shells, and air strikes have been relatively peripheral.
A no-fly zone alone may not be enough to prevent the continued advance of Gaddafi's forces toward Benghazi, the revolutionaries' de facto capital.
The talks are being closely watched in Benghazi and other areas under the control of the revolutionaries where Libyans are increasingly concerned at the direction of the conflict and the west's failure, so far at least, to follow through on calls for Gaddafi to go with action in support of the rebellion.
A large French flag hangs on the front of the courthouse used as the revolutionary council's headquarters after Paris recognised the rebel leadership, and the tricolour is often seen on the streets of Benghazi. But Libyans are also increasingly vocal in their criticism of Washington in particular for what is seen as a failure to back up rhetoric against the regime.
However, Gheriani said that if the west failed to offer practical help to the revolutionaries to free themselves from Gaddafi's rule it risked frustrated Libyans turning to religious extremists.
"The west is missing the point. The revolution was started because people were feeling despair from poverty, from oppression. Their last hope was freedom. If the west takes too long – where people say it's too little, too late – then people become a target for extremists who say the west doesn't care about them," he said.
"Most people in this country are moderates and extremists have not been able to penetrate them. But if they get to the point of disillusionment with the west there will be no going back."
Libyan rebels urge west to assassinate Gaddafi as his forces near Benghazi | World news | The Guardian
Libyans have the courage to fight for themselves. The free world should have the courage to support them.