Report: Some Setback For Libya Rebels

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[Global: Libya]

Opposition forces in Libya are bracing for a prolonged campaign in their bid to overthrow the regime of MuammarAl Qathafi, the country's long-time leader, as their fighters battle to repulse ferocious assaults by government soldiers.

At the end of fierce attacks by government forces, loyalists to the Al Qathafi regime have managed to advance on the rebel-held oil port of Ras Lanuf Monday in a counter-attack that forced residents to flee and rebels to retreat. It was very clear that the rebels are vulnerable from the skies.

Reuters reported this morning that the Libyan army was moving down the coastal road east of the recaptured town of Bin Jawad and heading towards Ras Lanuf, about 60 km away, which has a major oil complex.

It is being reported that dozens have died in a dramatic escalation of the conflict as anti-government forces' saw their rapid advance to the capital Tripoli abruptly halted.

AL Jazeera's correspondent, Jacky Rowland has reported that for a few days the rebels were making gains, “but overnight it would appear that pro-Al Qathafi took some ground."

She went on to say that government forces appeared to have "drawn a line in the sand" on the road to Sirte, and that, "If the rebels want to capture Sirte, they will have to prepare for heavy fighting along the way."

Another AL Jazeera correspondent, Hoda Abdel-Hamid, goes on to say that in Benghazi, much of the euphoria and excitement that victory was close at hand had faded.

Some feared that pro-Gaddafi forces had deliberately retreated to around Sirte, drawing the inexperienced and poorly-equipped rebel fighters forward and leaving rebel-held towns exposed to a possible counter-offensive.

Government loyalists have been reported using helicopter gunships, fighter planes and tanks against the rebels in several cities, including Bin Jawad, that was reclaimed by pro-government forces, Tobruk, Ras Lanuf and Misurata.

However, amid conflicting claims about the capture and recapture of several cities and towns, the rebels are said to have been continuing their advance on the area, with a member of the civil committee for Misurata affairs and rebel leader reportedly telling Al Jazeera that despite the fact that his fighters are outgunned, opposition forces are in "firm control" of Misurata and have also captured pro-regime soliders and would be showing them on television. He also appealed for aerial support and said that a no-fly zone was long overdue.

Sources have told Al Jazeera that deadly clashes took place in the area that lies in the middle of the coastline between the opposition stronghold of Benghazi and the capital, Tripoli, but that in Misurata they managed to hold back loyalist forces.

The UN Security Council is to name Portugal to head its Libya sanctions committee, while the European Union has sent experts into Libya to get "real time" information on humanitarian and evacuation efforts there.

Catherine Ashton, EU foreign minister, said on Sunday: "I have decided to dispatch this high level mission to provide me with first-hand, real-time information to feed into the discussions leading up to Friday's extraordinary European Council when I will update heads of state and government on the situation."

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