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Libyan rebels hurt in fighting around Misrata

Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani

At least 23 Libyan rebels were wounded in clashes with troops loyal to Moamer Kadhafi overnight on Monday in the coastal city of Misrata as rebels forces on the eastern front tried to advance further into the key oil town of Brega. 

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“We succeeded in pushing back the loyalist troops who lost many soliders and abandoned various military vehicles, weapons and munitions,” said a rebel statement adding the battles took place in the region of Dafnia, 20 kilometres west of Misrata.

Meanwhile, street fighting broke out in Brega as rebel forces said they had re-entered port but had not yet managed to wrest control of the town from Kadhafi's troops, who have held it since April.

"Some small groups have made it inside, but we do not control the whole (town) yet," said Mohammed Zawi, a spokesman for the rebel forces. He dismissed rumours that Kadhafi troops had abandoned the town altogether.

It is now close fighting," he said, indicating a new phase in the four-day rebel campaign.

Taking the town is a key strategic goal for the rebels, giving them access to one of the country's largest oil facilities.

And Russia sharply criticised the West on Monday for recognising Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council, the TNC, as the country’s official authority. But it did say it would still view the rebels as an official negotiating partner.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that recognising the TNC was equivalent to choosing sides in a civil war.

Russia says it has maintained formal ties with Kadhafi’s regime despite insisting on his exile.

Lavrov said he still believed that only direct talks, ruled out by the rebels, could produce a ceasefire and acceptable terms for a new transitional government.
 

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