Libyan clash threatens to become civil war


Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya

Moammar Gadhafi’s forces battled poorly armed rebels Tuesday for control of towns near the capital trying to create a buffer zone around his seat of power. The increasingly violent clashes threatened to transform the 15-day popular rebellion in Libya into a drawn-out civil war.

Amid the intensified fighting, the international community stepped up moves to isolate the longtime Libyan leader.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he ordered two ships into the Mediterranean, including the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, and he is sending 400 Marines to the vessel to replace some troops that left recently for Afghanistan.

Military leaders weighing a no-fly zone over Libya said it would be a complex task that would require taking out Gadhafi’s air defenses, and Russia’s top diplomat dismissed the idea as “superfluous” and said world powers should focus on sanctions.

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, warned Western forces not to take military action against Libya and said the country is prepared to defend itself against foreign intervention.

Facing an unprecedented challenge to his 41-year rule, Gadhafi’s regime has launched the bloodiest crackdown in a wave of uprising against authoritarian rulers in the Middle East. Gadhafi already has lost control of the eastern half of the country but still holds Tripoli and other nearby cities.

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