Added by David Sandercock on March 31, 2011
Sources close to Libyan rebel fighters say the opposition is retreating from Ras Lanuf, a key oil port on the coastal route to the capital.
The port had come under heavy shelling by ground forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. When NATO planes were flying over the area on Wednesday explosions were heard indicating that a new wave of air strikes against the government forces had been executed.
The NATO intervention in the Libyan conflict has seen air strikes on almost a daily basis, in an attempt at weakening the superior military power of the Gaddafi regime and to support the poorly equipped opposition rebel army.
There have been opposition to recent comments made by the French foreign minister indicating that arms should be supplied to Libyan rebels, with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arguing on Monday that the mandate approved by the UN Security Council did not give foreign powers the right to arm the opposition.
“Immediately thereafter [statement by France], the NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen declared that the operation in Libya was being staged to protect the population and not to arm it – and here, we completely agree with the NATO Secretary General” Lavrov said.