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NATO pounds Tripoli as Gaddafi urges cease-fire

No sign of troops loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi at Zawiya complex.

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(Antler)

Strong explosions rocked Tripoli early Friday as Muammar Gaddafi's shaky regime called for a immediate cease-fire in Libya and rebels claimed control of a key oil refinery not far from the capital.

A series of explosions was heard about 1 a.m. local time in the heart of the seaside capital where Gaddafi’s residential complex is located, as well as in several areas in the west of the city, AFP reports.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports say Libya's rebels have taken control of the oil refinery outside the town of Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital Tripoli.

Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi hotly disputed the claim, saying the refinery was "without doubt" still in loyalist hands, AFP reports.

Mahmudi said "the time has arrived for an immediate cease-fire," it reports.

"We are ready to begin a dialogue to put an end to the crisis immediately," Mahmudi said.

He said there had been "contact" in recent days to find a political solution in the near future.

Reuters reports have said that rebels were inside the oil refinery complex, with no sign of troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The BBC said the refinery has long been a strategic target of the opposition forces, who have gained territory in recent days.

Rebels have been fighting to win control of oil facilities vital to winning the war, which has been ongoing for six months.

(Read more on GlobalPost: Rebels tighten grip on Tripoli; Panetta says end is near for Gaddafi)

A rebel spokesman said Wednesday that a pipeline to Tripoli had been severed, while there reports of fuel shortages in the capital.

Ahead of the assault, Abdulkarim Kashaba said opposition forces had taken control of the "gates of the refinery." Heavy gunfire was later heard.

The BBC said that despite the fact much of the fuel used by government forces came from Tunisia and Algeria, the refinery provided supplies to Tripoli.

Zawiya lies along the main road linking Tripoli to Tunisia.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/110818/libya-rebels-zawilya-oil-refinery