Libyan Troops 'Force Rebels Out Of Brega'

Heavy fighting is being reported in Libya's eastern town of Brega, as forces supporting Colonel Gaddafi advance on rebel-held strongholds.

A Libyan rebel fighter stands by a machine gun at a check point in Brega on March 12, 2011. Rebels beat a further retreat on Saturday under air strikes and shellfire from Moamer Kadhafi's forces, even as an Arab League decision to back a no-fly zone boosted their uprising.

Dozens of rebel fighters are pulling out of the area amid heavy shelling, witnesses say.

"Brega has been cleansed of armed gangs," a military source was quoted on Libyan state television as saying.

Libyan rebel forces have been losing ground for days, including the key oil port of Ras Lanuf on Saturday.

In other regional developments:

  • In Bahrain, riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at anti-government protesters blocking the main road into the capital's business district, and encircled the protesters' main camp, eyewitnesses said
  • In Yemen, dozens of people are wounded in clashes between Yemeni police, firing live bullets and tear gas, and anti-government protesters at the main opposition sit-in in the capital, witnesses said

Benghazi defiant

Correspondents say Libyan television has issued misleading statements on military gains in the past.

However, rebels have been seen on trucks equipped with anti-aircraft guns retreating from Brega along the coastal road towards Ajdabiya - the gateway to the main rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Tobruk.

In Benghazi itself the mood remains defiant, says the BBC's Pascale Harter, with many wounded fighters returning but other residents heading for the front line.

Meanwhile reports from the last major rebel base in western Libya, Misrata, say that Col Gaddafi's troops are on the outskirts of the city and tank fire can be heard.

International diplomatic pressure is growing for a no-fly zone to be imposed over Libya.

The policy would be aimed at preventing Col Gaddafi's forces using warplanes to attack rebel positions, although no clear position has emerged on exactly how this would be achieved.

On Saturday, the Arab League agreed to ask the UN Security Council to enforce such a zone.

The UK and France have pushed for the idea, but have failed so far to win firm backing from the EU or Nato.

Nato has previously cited regional and international support for the idea as a key condition before it could possibly go ahead.

Russia and China, which wield vetos on the UN Security Council, have expressed serious reservations on the issue.