Africa

Libya: Stalemate around Libyan oil town of Brega

A rebel fighter sits in the back of a pick-up truck at a staging area to the east of Brega
Image caption Rebels are calling for coalition support

The east Libyan oil town of Brega has seen continued fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

A BBC correspondent near the town says an uneasy stalemate is developing, days after a Nato air strike on a rebel convoy killed at least 13 people.

In the rebel capital Benghazi, a hospital ship has docked carrying casualties from Misrata.

Elsewhere, a senior Gaddafi official flew to Athens to deliver a message to the Greek prime minister.

Abdelati Obeidi, Libya's deputy foreign minister for European affairs, was due to meet George Papandreou, Greek sources confirmed.

The uprising against Col Gaddafi's rule in February has developed into an armed conflict pitting rebels against government forces and drawing in a Nato-led coalition with a UN mandate to protect civilians.

At least several thousand people have been killed and many more have been injured as the two sides battle for control over territory.

The country's vital coastal cities are now roughly split between pro-Gaddafi forces controlling Tripoli and the west, and rebels controlling Benghazi in the east.

Appeal for weapons

Government troops are reported to be holding ground near the university in Brega, some 800km (500 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, but are reluctant to engage rebels because of the risk of further Nato air strikes.

Rebel forces traded rocket and artillery fire with Gaddafi forces inside the town and coalition planes could be heard flying in the area.

Rebel leaders in Benghazi have appealed for new Nato air strikes, as well as weapons and military training to be provided by foreign governments.

They have acknowledged that firing in the air through lack of discipline could have provoked the Nato air strike on their own forces on Friday.

The opposition leadership says it is trying to bring a new professionalism to its military campaign.

Road blocks have been set up close to the frontline and only soldiers with at least some training are allowed through.

Iman Bugaighis, spokeswoman for the rebel leadership, told the BBC: "We have reorganised our troops. Now the army is in the front and then followed by our volunteers who are fighting with the army."

Hospital ship

Image caption The wounded from Misrata are being evacuated on a converted car ferry

At least one person was killed and several wounded early on Sunday when forces loyal to Col Gaddafi shelled a building in Misrata, a resident told Reuters news agency.

Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, rose up against Col Gaddafi's rule along with other towns in mid-February. It has been besieged and bombed by pro-Gaddafi forces for weeks.

A converted Turkish car ferry has docked in Benghazi carrying 230 wounded people from Misrata.

The makeshift hospital ship was due to pick up further casualties in Benghazi before bringing the injured, who include children and amputees, to Turkey for medical treatment.

The wounded lie on rough beds along the car decks with saline drips rigged up above them, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports after visiting the ship. They include a boy of 13 who told how he had been shot by a sniper.

According to one unconfirmed report, some 160 people may have been killed this week in Misrata.

There have also been reports that Gaddafi forces shelled the town of Yafran in a mountainous region south-west of Tripoli.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has called for a swift end to the conflict in Libya even if it means offering Col Gaddafi safe haven in another country.

Speaking to the BBC, Archbishop Tutu, who retired from public life last year, said in an ideal world the Libyan leader should stand trial, but that in reality it was better "to let him have a soft landing and save the lives as many people as you possibly can".