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Libyan rebels debate requesting Western airstrikes (UPDATES) (VIDEO)

Libyan rebels debate requesting UN airstrikes to oust Gaddafi.

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Rebel volunteers cheer on their first day of military training at a rebel militia center on March 1, 2011, in Benghazi, Libya. (John Moore/Getty Images)

In a desperate attempt to force out Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan opposition group is considering requesting Western airstrikes against the leader's compound and assets, reports the New York Times.

The revolutionary council in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya and the heart of the uprising, is debating whether to ask for the airstrikes, which would be under the banner of the United Nations in the hopes that they would not be seen as foreign intervention.

“If it is with the United Nations, it is not a foreign intervention," the council’s spokesman, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, told the New York Times.

There is concern that the plan could backfire as Gaddafi would likely blame foreign powers, and the Libyan people themselves might not support airstrikes from the West. There is also no indication that the United Nations Security Council would agree to the airstrikes.

Meanwhile, the United Nations general assembly voted Tuesday to unanimously suspend Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council as a result of the attacks by Gaddafi's forces on civilians.

“I was almost rendered speechless by the idea of him and Mugabe together.”
~Hillary Clinton

Libya was suspended after committing "gross and systematic violations of human rights," according to the U.N. statement.

The north African country facing weeks of a nationwide uprising will be prevented from participating in the council's activities until the general assembly decides otherwise.

In a speech to the United Nations before the vote, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Gaddafi's forces had killed more than 1,000 people, and there were reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture.

"The world has spoken with one voice: we demand an immediate end to the violence against civilians and full respect for their fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful assembly and free speech," he said.

The United Nations also called for a mass humanitarian evacuation of people fleeing Libya for Tunisia as the border situation has reached a "crisis point."

The number of people fleeing violence and chaos in Libya has topped 140,000, with about half of them entering Tunisia, according to reports.

Aid workers warned on Tuesday that the situation at the border with Tunisia has reached a crisis point, as border guards were firing into the air, trying to control crowds pressing to get through the Ras Jdir crossing, Al Jazeera reported.

"They've been accommodating people in shelters, schools and places of their own. But we're now aware of the fact that they're very much stretched and they need the support of the international community," said Liz Eyster of UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency.

The U.N. estimates that about 100,000 people have fled the violence in the past week.

Rebels, supporters battle for control

Libyan rebels have repelled an attack by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi aimed at retaking the city of Zawiya, close to the capital, Tripoli, according to reports.

But Gaddafi's forces have retaken at least two towns and threatened a third, according to Associated Press.

One of those retaken was the strategic mountain town of Gharyan, the largest in the Nafusa Mountains, which overlooks Tripoli, a resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation.

The town fell after dark Friday in a surprise attack, and the government troops detained officers who defected to the rebels and drew up lists of wanted protesters and started searching for them, the resident added.

Gadhafi supporters also have said they were in control of the city of Sabratha, west of Tripoli, which gone back and forth between the two camps in the past week.

The rebels repulsed attacks on three other key areas — Misrata to the east, Zawiya to the west, and the mountain town of Zintan to the south of the capital.

Witnesses in Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital, said rebels shouted "Allahu akbar (God is great) for our victory," and carried an air force colonel who had just defected after six hours of overnight gunbattles failed to dislodge anti-Gadhafi forces who control the city.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, meantime, warned that Libya was at risk of collapsing into a "protracted civil war" amid increasingly violent clashes between the two sides.

And there were reports that more than 140,000 people had fled Libya to Egypt and Tunisia in a growing exodus from the chaos engulfing the country.

Rebels in Zawiya, the nearest population center to Tripoli to fall into the opposition

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/110301/libya-muammar-gaddafi-un-susan-price