Libya: Gaddafi troops take rebel oil port of Ras Lanuf

Libyan rebels in front the refinery oil complex in Ras Lanuf, Libya, on 11 March, 2011
Image caption Ras Lanuf has seen heavy fighting for several days

Rebels forces opposed to Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi have been forced out of the northern oil town of Ras Lanuf after days of fighting.

Rebel leaders told reporters that their fighters had been driven 20km (12 miles) from the outskirts of Ras Lanuf.

Government forces now control the town and its oil refinery.

The Arab League has begun an emergency meeting in Cairo to discuss supporting the imposition of a possible no-fly zone over Libya.

In comments made ahead of the meeting, the League's Secretary General, Amr Mussa, backed the creation of a no-fly zone and said he wanted the pan-Arab organisation to play a role in implementing it.

"The United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union, the Europeans - everyone should participate," Mr Mussa told German weekly Der Spiegel.

US defence secretary Robert Gates, in comments reported by the French news agency AFP, made clear the US was not yet convinced.

"We can do it - the question is whether it's a wise thing to do and that's the discussion that's going on at a political level," Mr Gates told reporters on a US military plane after a visit to Bahrain.

On Friday, EU leaders in Brussels stopped short of supporting the British and French initiative, saying instead that they would "examine all necessary options" to protect civilians.

War planes

General Abdel-Fattah Younis, who was the country's interior minister before he joined the rebels, told the Associated Press news agency that his forces would make a comeback by Sunday "at the latest".

Ras Lanuf, 600km east of Tripoli, had been the scene of intense fighting and bombing for several days.

Government warplanes bombed the town's oil refinery and a rebel checkpoint, and there were reports of fierce battles in the town.

Earlier this week, pro-Gaddafi forces re-took the town of Zawiya, 30 miles (48km) west of Tripoli.

Foreign journalists allowed by the Libyan government into the town reported scenes of devastation, with virtually every building around the city's main square flattened or damaged by heavy fighting.

Reuters also reported government attacks near the western town of Misrata, as well as strikes at Uqaylah and another bombing further east near Brega.

On Friday, the US and the EU repeated their calls for Col Gaddafi to step down.

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