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Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Shifting Positions?

1915 GMT: Medical sources says at least five people have been killed in shelling by regime forces and five more people are in critical condition. Many other wounded people could not be reached by medical teams because of sporadic shelling.

1820 GMT: Britain has announced that it is bringing four more Tornado fighter jets to the coalition mission, bringing the British total to 10.

Even more interesting, however, is the news that London will provide communications equipment on the ground to the opposition. That has probably already been occurring --- Al Jazeera English's James Boys reported yesterday on insurgents moving towards Brega with the new gear.

1810 GMT: A resident in the Jabal al-Gharbi area, about 230km (140 miles) southwest of the capital, tells AFP that Qaddafi forces fired Grad rockets today at the town of Nalut and took the town of Kekla.

1800 GMT: President Bashar al-Assad has appointed a new governor for the southern Syrian town of Daraa, the flashpoint of protests for more than two weeks.

Mohammad Khaled al-Hannus replaces Faysal Kalthum, dismissed on 23 March as the demonstrations escalated.

1520 GMT: More developments, and some uncertainty, in the case of Eman Al-Obeidi, the woman who was taken away last week after entering a Tripoli hotel and trying to tell foreign journalists of her abuse and rape by regime forces....

CNN says it has spoken to Al-Obeidi, who is no longer in government custody and has spent time with her family. More extensive is that claimed video from the new Free Libya TV station, which speaks al Obeidi by phone about the continued threat to her from the regime:

1510 GMT: Looks like the Algerian regime is putting out its own special message on Libya, declaring via a "security official" that Al Qaeda is exploiting the conflict in Libya to acquire weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, and smuggle them to a stronghold in northern Mali.

The official said the weapons included Russian-made RPG-7 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikov heavy machine guns, Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and ammunition.He added that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had acquired Russian-made shoulder-fired Strela (SAM-7) surface-to-air missiles from Libya.

The official said that Al Qaeda was exploiting disarray among regime forces and had also infiltrated the opposition in eastern Libya.

An EA correspondent evaluates, "Algerian message is 1) criticising Qaddafi while 2) warning that internal instability (as in Algeria, which faces its own protests) could benefit Al Qa'eda."

1506 GMT: A doctor in Ajdabiya is reporting that at least 1 civilian was killed today in fighting near Brega.

Also, the Greek foreign minister, Dimiteris Droutsas, said today that there is a "chance, albeit small for a politico-diplomatic solution" to the crisis in Libya.

1459 GMT: British Foreign Minister William Hague is speaking to parliament, addressing the crisis in Ivory Coast, as well as Libya:

"The regime is still able to inflict severe damage" to civilain population. As long as this is the case, Hague clarifies, the British will continue their mission. He also stressed the humanitarian missions in eastern Libya, and the deployment of diplomats into Benghazi. Hague very clearly stated that no one will supply arms to the rebels, but they will be moving communications equipment into the country.

Hague also made clear that Mousa Kousa has not received any immunity from the international community, but his departure is a clear sign that Gaddafi is weak. Any other Gaddafi officials who wish to flee the country will also not be immune from prosecution. 

"The world is united in believing that the Gaddafi regime has lost all legitimacy and must go."

Hague also mentioned his concern about sectarian tensions and violence in Bahrain, and he urged Yemen's President Saleh to meet the demands of protesters. He also condemned attacks on civilians on Syria, demanding investigations into the violence while "acknowledging certain reforms." Hague clearly links the potests in all four nations, and gave approximately equal time in his comments about Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.

1435 GMT: The New York Times is confirming that at least 5 were killed as tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the Yemeni city of Taiz, though a doctor in the city is reporting that he has seen 12 bodies. (see updates below). Witnesses have said that these protests are the deadliest yet since unrest started.

1408 GMT: NATO officials have confirmed that they will be stepping down aerial bombardment of Gaddafi's positions later today, and other NATO nations will pick up the slack. The U.S. has been saying all along that the use of heavy assets, such as the A-10 Warthog and the AC-130 gunship, would be throttled back, though U.S. air power will likely continue in efforts to maintain a no-fly zone over Libya. 

There are also new reports that Gaddafi forces are bombarding oil fields near Misrata.

1346 GMT: It's not exactly the Middle East or North Africa, but EA's correspondent James Miller has just learned that Than Shwe, the military dictator of Myanmar who has ruled for two decades, has retired and is turning power over to a "nominally civilian government." It's too early to tell whether a transfer of power away from the military will be successful, but the end of almost twenty years of military rule is a significant news story.

1323 GMT: Striking Oil - The oil tanker Equator will load approximately 1 million barrells of rebel-owned oil in the port of Tobruk later today. The oil has been sold to Qatar, the first sale of oil by the National Transitional Council since the uprisings in Libya began. The production of oil in the western oil towns is seen as vital for the economy of rebel-held territories, and the revenue will be used to improve humanitarian and living conditions, according to the deal the NTC has struck with Qatar.

1240 GMT: Back from a break to find more on Italy's recognition of the opposition as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people --- it's matched by a dismissal, from Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, of the mission to Europe by Muammar Qaddafi's Deputy Foreign Minister, Abdel Ati al-Obeidi: "Tripoli's regime has no future."

Meanwhile, the opposition and regime troops continue to battle over the oil town of Brega. A column of insurgents has moved to within one kilometre of the university on the western edge of town, according to AFP. The advance has had to cope with the threat of mines laid by regime forces.

1005 GMT: Three videos claiming to be of clashes and wounded in Hodeidah in Yemen, which have reportedly injured at least 30 people today:

Bahrain Snapshot: The New Look of the "Last Independent Newspaper"
Libya: Getting the Rebels Wrong (Abdurrahman) Yemen: The Dangerous US Game (Scahill)
Libya (and Beyond) Snapshot: Extra, Extra, It's All About Iran!
Libya Snapshot: The Public Interrogation of a Journalist
Yemen Feature: Making Money Out of Protest (Kasinof)
Sunday's Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: How Far with the Opposition?

0945 GMT: It is reported that Italy has become the third country, after France and Qatar, to recognise the opposition's National Transitional Council as the representative of the Libyan people.

0920 GMT: In Yemen, medical sources are reporting that police have opened fire on protesters in Taiz, killing ten people.

Yesterday, at least one person was killed and more than 800 wounded when security forces charged the protest camp. All but nine of the injuries came from tear gas and batons.

There are also reports that at least 30 anti-regime demonstrators have been shot in Hodeida by men in plainclothes.

0810 GMT: Moussa Koussa, the former Libyan Foreign Minister, now in Britain and in discussions with Her Majesty's Government:

Photo: Press Association

0755 GMT: The BBC's Wyre Davis reports on opposition training:


At a military base in Benghazi, rebel leaders are in a desperate race to train new recruits.


They learn how to assemble and dismantle a heavy machine gun. Half an hour on this, then on to another lesson - perhaps the mechanics of firing a mortar shell with accuracy or how to handle an AK47.

This is how Libya's rebel army is being trained.

As one group of young men sits attentively on the floor of the parade ground in Benghazi, an instructor shows them how to arm and fire a mortar shell.

Most of these men have never seen a mortar round before, fired a gun or been anywhere near the front line.


0700 GMT: Not sure too many folks have noticed this --- Britain's Minister of Defence Liam Fox has gone to Bahrain to visit King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and Bahrain's military leaders.

According to Bahrain's Gulf Daily News, the King "hailed the British stance regarding measures to deal with the crisis which gripped Bahrain" while Fox "thanked His Majesty, hailing Bahrain's development strides and its regional pioneering role".

0630 GMT: Syria has freed Lotfi Al Masoudi, one of four Al Jazeera journalists seized three weeks ago.

All four were briefly released on Thursday but then re-arrested.

0620 GMT: Another video of protest from Syria this weekend, this one of a woman leading chants in Latakia:

(See full collection of videos in our separate entry.)

0530 GMT: In addition to the Turkish hospital ferry taking injured from Misurata (see 0430 GMT), Qatar has organised an airlift of wounded Libyans.

0445 GMT: The eyebrow-raising story this morning is about Yemen.

A week ago, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared to give implicit support for embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, warning that a post-Saleh Government could be weaker and jeopardise counter-terrorism efforts. (See also separate entry, "Yemen: The Dangerous US Game".) But now Laura Kasinof and David Sanger of The New York Times, drawing from "American and Yemeni officials", assert that the Washington tide is changing:


The Obama administration had maintained its support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in private and refrained from directly criticizing him in public, even as his supporters fired on peaceful demonstrators, because he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. This position has fueled criticism of the United States in some quarters for hypocrisy for rushing to oust a repressive autocrat in Libya but not in strategic allies like Yemen and Bahrain.


That position began to shift in the past week, administration officials said. While American officials have not publicly pressed Mr. Saleh to go, they have told allies that they now view his hold on office as untenable, and they believe he should leave.

A Yemeni official said that the American position changed when the negotiations with Mr. Saleh on the terms of his potential departure began a little over a week ago.

“The Americans have been pushing for transfer of power since the beginning” of those negotiations, the official said, but have not said so publicly because “they still were involved in the negotiations.”

Those negotiations now center on a proposal for Mr. Saleh to hand over power to a provisional government led by his vice president until new elections are held. That principle “is not in dispute,” the Yemeni official said, only the timing and mechanism for how he would depart.


Later the story finally gets to US sources to indicate Gates' declaration is being re-evaluated, possibly challenged by other blocs in the Administration:


or Washington, the key to his departure would be arranging a transfer of power that would enable the counterterrorism operation in Yemen to continue.


One administration official referred to that concern last week, saying that the standoff between the president and the protesters “has had a direct adverse impact on the security situation throughout the country.”

“Groups of various stripes — Al Qaeda, Houthis, tribal elements, and secessionists — are exploiting the current political turbulence and emerging fissures within the military and security services for their own gain,” the official said. “Until President Saleh is able to resolve the current political impasse by announcing how and when he will follow through on his earlier commitment to take tangible steps to meet opposition demands, the security situation in Yemen is at risk of further deterioration.”

In recent days, American officials in Washington have hinted at the change in position.

Those “tangible steps,” another official said, could include giving in to the demand that he step down.


0430 GMT: This weekend the military situation in north-central Libya, in sharp contrast to the rapid back-and-forth advances of the regime and the opposition over the previous week, established itself on a front-line outside the oil port in Brega. Meanwhile, the hardship of Misurata, Libya's third-largest city 210 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli, continued with more shelling by the regime but no resolution of control.

Attention turned therefore to discussion, often speculation, about political moves. Talk about a regime initiative in London for a settlement has tapered off, but Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sent his Deputy Foreign Minister to Athens on Sunday with a message for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. No firm details have emerged about the talks.

There were also stories beyond the fighting and diplomacy: on Sunday, a Turkish hospital ferry took about 250 severely injured people out of Misurata.

And, waiting for movement on the military front, Al Jazeera English's James Bays reports on the opposition fighters between Brega and Ajdabiya.

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