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BLOOMBERG: Arab League formally asks U.N. to enforce no-fly zone over Libya »

The Arab League called on the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to stop air attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi, Egyptian state television reported.

The appeal was made during a meeting today in Cairo, according to the channel, as Arab leaders gathered to discuss options to halt the burgeoning civil war in neighboring Libya. Syria, Yemen and Algeria opposed the proposal, Al-Jazeera television reported, citing unidentified diplomats.

“The dangers are plenty and the Arab League has to bear its responsibility to avoid the descent into civil war or unneeded foreign intervention” in Libya, Yusuf bin Alawi, Oman’s foreign minister, said before the Cairo meeting. “An Arab intervention is needed using the tools of the Arab League and within the confines of international legitimacy.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he’s dispatching a special envoy to Tripoli this weekend in an effort to stop the violence and seek access for humanitarian aid. The European Union will assess the “efficiency” of economic sanctions on individuals and entities in Libya before deciding on further measures such as a no-fly zone, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said today.

Ashton will fly to Cairo tomorrow to meet with Arab League leaders and discuss the situation, she said after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Hungary. A majority of leaders at a European Union summit in Brussels yesterday were “very reluctant” to launch military action sought by rebels and agreed that a no-fly zone would need UN and Arab support, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters.

FREEDOM SAIL  A boat full of would-be immigrants made its way to the Italian island of  Lampedusa early Monday morning. A total of 155 immigrants landed on the  island Monday morning, and customs police patrolling the Strait of  Sicily by air sighted eight other boats on their way, as migrant workers  flee the recent violence in Libya. (Photo: Roberto Salomone / AFP-Getty via the Wall St. Journal)

FREEDOM SAIL  A boat full of would-be immigrants made its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa early Monday morning. A total of 155 immigrants landed on the island Monday morning, and customs police patrolling the Strait of Sicily by air sighted eight other boats on their way, as migrant workers flee the recent violence in Libya. (Photo: Roberto Salomone / AFP-Getty via the Wall St. Journal)

Yemeni protesters threw a boy into the air during demonstrations against  the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a Monday. After days  of delay, he officially rejected a proposal that he step down this year  and reiterated that he would remain in power until his term ends in  2013. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP-Getty via the Wall St. Journal)

Yemeni protesters threw a boy into the air during demonstrations against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a Monday. After days of delay, he officially rejected a proposal that he step down this year and reiterated that he would remain in power until his term ends in 2013. (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP-Getty via the Wall St. Journal)

Both sides of the conflict in Libya were girding for more confrontations on Sunday, a day after militia forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi launched a new round of attacks on the rebel-held city of Zawiyah, just 30 miles west of the capital, and a ragtag rebel army moving from the east won its first ground battle to take the oil port of Ras Lanuf, about midway down the Mediterranean coast.

An hour before dawn on Sunday, Tripoli erupted in gunfire, the sounds of machine guns and heavier artillery echoing through the capital. The spark was unclear - — there were rumors of some conflict within the armed Qaddafi forces — but soon Qaddafi supporters were riding through the streets waiving green flags and firing guns into the air. Crowds converged on the city’s central Green Square for a rally, with many people still shooting skyward. The shots rang out for more than three hours, with occasional ambulance sirens squealing in the background.

Government spokesmen called it a celebration of victories over the rebels, but the rebels denied any losses; 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning is an unusual time for a victory rally, and the rally was notably well armed. Protesters in the capitol suggested it was a show of force intended to deter unrest or possibly cover up some earlier conflict.A rebel spokesman, reached over the phone, said his leadership was relying on international media reports to try to make sense of the early morning gunfire in Tripoli.

“It is very hard to reach trip, ” he said, alluding to the pervasive surveillance and recent spate of arrests. “When we talk to someone in Tripoli you put their life in jeopardy.”

By early afternoon Sunday, Libyan state television and government officials in Tripoli were making increasingly strong and apparently false statements about progress against the rebels. Officials said that Qaddafi forces had captured the city of Misrata as well as the leaders of the rebels governing counsel and would soon retake the country. State television reported that Qaddafi forces were marching on the rebel headquarters of Benghazi. But multiple reports from the ground on the front lines and in rebel territory indicated that all those reports were false and in fact rebels were fighting near the port of Surt, the town where Colonel Qaddafi was born and which blocks the rebels’ progress toward Tripoli.

Nineteen days after it began with spirited demonstrations in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Libyan uprising has veered sharply from the pattern of relatively quick and nonviolent upheavals that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Instead, the rebellion here has become mired in a drawn-out ground campaign between two relatively unprofessional and loosely organized forces — the Libyan Army and the rebels — that is exacting high civilian casualties and appears likely to drag on for some time.

"In Libya, Both Sides Gird for Long War as Civilian Toll Mount," from the New York Times

In eastern Libya, rebel volunteers in Ras Lanuf, an oil refinery town  that they retook from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s loyalists on Friday  night, leaving empty streets on Saturday morning.  (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

In eastern Libya, rebel volunteers in Ras Lanuf, an oil refinery town that they retook from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s loyalists on Friday night, leaving empty streets on Saturday morning.  (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi counterattacked with brutal force on Friday, battling rebel forces on two fronts, firing on unarmed protesters in front of international news media and leaving the rebels seeking his ouster in disarray.

His militia’s actions seemed likely to stir renewed debate over international intervention to limit his use of military power against his own citizens, possibly by imposing a no-flight zone.

About 30 miles outside the capital, the elite Khamis Brigade, a militia named for the Qaddafi son who commands it, surrounded the rebel-controlled town of Zawiyah and opened fire with mortars, machine guns and other heavy weapons, witnesses said, in two separate skirmishes.

The first was arguably provoked by rebels who tried to attack the better-equipped militia because it was blocking rebel supporters from entering the town, the witnesses said. But the second, called a “massacre” by rebel witnesses, took aim at a group of unarmed protesters who attempted to march through the militia lines toward the capital.

A rebel making a count at the Zawiyah hospital said that at least 35 rebels and an unknown number of militia soldiers died in the fighting, with more than 60 rebels missing and more than 50 wounded. Among the dead, rebels said, was Col. Hussein Darbouk, a defected Libyan officer who had been commanding rebel forces in the town.

“We killed a lot of their people, but obviously they have more power than us, to be quite honest,” said one rebel, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Others spoke of violence directed against unarmed civilians.

“I cannot describe the enormity of the violence they are committing against us,” one resident said in a telephone interview, with gunfire in the background.

"Qaddafi Brutalizes Foes, Armed Or Defenseless," from the New York Times.

He’s daring the international community to stop him at this point.

WITNESS   Bahraini amateur and professional photographers demonstrate Monday at  Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain, demanding the Information minister  resign and condemning state-run Bahrain TV for airing what they claim  are fake images aimed at misleading the public. Protesters blockaded  Bahrain’s parliament Monday and massed outside the state broadcaster in  efforts to escalate pressure on the nation’s embattled monarchy.  (Photo: AP via the New York Post)

WITNESS   Bahraini amateur and professional photographers demonstrate Monday at Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain, demanding the Information minister resign and condemning state-run Bahrain TV for airing what they claim are fake images aimed at misleading the public. Protesters blockaded Bahrain’s parliament Monday and massed outside the state broadcaster in efforts to escalate pressure on the nation’s embattled monarchy.  (Photo: AP via the New York Post)

SILENCED   A man, center, is detained by police officers near a planned “jasmine” protest  site is located at in Shanghai, China, Sunday. Large numbers of police,  and use of new tactics like shrill whistles and street cleaners, are  squelching any overt protests in China after calls for more peaceful  gatherings modeled on recent popular democratic movements in the Middle  East.  (Photo: AP via the New York Post)
For shame, China.

SILENCED   A man, center, is detained by police officers near a planned “jasmine” protest site is located at in Shanghai, China, Sunday. Large numbers of police, and use of new tactics like shrill whistles and street cleaners, are squelching any overt protests in China after calls for more peaceful gatherings modeled on recent popular democratic movements in the Middle East.  (Photo: AP via the New York Post)

For shame, China.

EVERYWHERE, SIGNS   An armed resident gestures a victory sign in the main square in Zawiya,  30 miles west of Tripoli, in Libya. Hundreds of armed anti-government  forces backed by military defectors in Zawiya, the city closest to the  capital Tripoli, prepared Sunday to repel an expected offensive by  forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi who are surrounding the city.  (Photo: AP via the New York Post)

EVERYWHERE, SIGNS   An armed resident gestures a victory sign in the main square in Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, in Libya. Hundreds of armed anti-government forces backed by military defectors in Zawiya, the city closest to the capital Tripoli, prepared Sunday to repel an expected offensive by forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi who are surrounding the city.  (Photo: AP via the New York Post)

NY TIMES: "Iran's state prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, said Monday that authorities have cut all outside contact with Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the country's two senior opposition leaders, as part of a campaign to silence dissent. The announcement came after the two leaders were reported to have been moved to a "safe house" near Tehran by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Youth protesters inside Iran have scheduled demonstrations for three consecutive Tuesdays, the first of which falls on March 1, Mr. Moussavi's birthday." »

A BANNER, DARKLY   A man atop a pole waved a pre-Qaddafi Libyan flag as a crowd of hundreds gather in front of the courthouse in Benghazi.  (Photo: Ed Ou for the New York Times)

A BANNER, DARKLY   A man atop a pole waved a pre-Qaddafi Libyan flag as a crowd of hundreds gather in front of the courthouse in Benghazi.  (Photo: Ed Ou for the New York Times)

NY TIMES: "Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces struck back at his opponents on three fronts on Monday, using fighter jets, special forces units and regular army troops in an escalation of hostilities that brought Libya a step closer to civil war. But the rebels dismissed the attacks as ineffectual, and Colonel Qaddafi faced a growing international campaign to force him from power, as the Obama administration announced it had seized $30 billion in Libyan assets and the European Union adopted an arms embargo and other sanctions." »

He’s getting desperate.  I think even his supporters in Tripoli now have reason to fear him.  What makes them think Gaddafi won’t turn the guns on them in one final act of madness?

An international campaign to force Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi out of office gathered pace on Monday as the European Union adopted an arms embargo and other sanctions, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bluntly told the Libyan leader to surrender power “now, without further violence or delay.”

With the opposition showed increasing signs of organization in the east, and rebel and loyalist forces locked in an increasingly tense stand-off, the prime ministers of France and Britain echoed Mrs. Clinton’s call for Colonel Qaddafi to go. Germany proposed a 60-day ban on financial transactions, and a spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said that contacts were being established with the opposition.

Italy’s foreign minister on Sunday suspended a nonaggression treaty with Libya on the grounds that the Libyan state “no longer exists,” while Mrs. Clinton said the United States was reaching out to the rebels to “offer any kind of assistance.”

France said it was sending medical aid. Prime Minister François Fillon said planes loaded with doctors, nurses and supplies were heading to the rebel-controlled eastern city of Benghazi, calling the airlift “the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories.”

"International Pressure on Gaddafi Intensifies," from the New York Times.

Noose, tightening.