Rebels charge towards Gaddafi hometown

Written by Bloomberg | Updated: Mar 30 2011, 09:29am hrs
Libyan government troops dug in with tanks to block the advancing rebels at Sirte, Muammar Gaddafis hometown, as President Barack Obama defended his decision to involve US forces in the war.

Military intervention stopped Gaddafis deadly advance and helped prevent a massacre of civilians that would have stained the conscience of the world, Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington late on Monday.

The rebels drive toward Sirte extends their offensive along Libyas coast, where over the weekend they recaptured the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf, helped by the US-led aerial bombardment of government positions. Rebel forces on Monday were less than 125 kms from the city, a Gaddafi stronghold, and their military leader Abdel Fattah Younes predicted we will take it.

That may set the stage for an escalation in the fighting, already the most violent yet seen in more than two months of popular uprisings across the West Asia and North Africa. Libya s opposition estimates that as many as 12,000 people have died. Foreign ministers from more than 30 countries will meet in London today to coordinate support for a post-Gaddafi Libya.

Crude oil fell for a fourth day on speculation that the rebels territorial gains may hasten a resolution to the crisis. Crude for May delivery declined 0.1% to $103.83 a barrel in London. It has risen more than 20% since the Libyan conflict began.