Page last updated at 23:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Libya revolt as it happened: Thursday 10 March

  • Libyan rebels have been retreating in the east around Ras Lanuf after coming under heavy attack from Col Gaddafi's forces; the western town of Zawiya appears to be under government control after days of bombardment
  • One of Col Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, vowed to take back the east of the country from rebels
  • Nato defence ministers meeting in Brussels have resisted calls for an air exclusion zone over Libya to prevent operations by Colonel Gaddafi's air force
  • France has recognised the rebels' Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross says Libya has now descended into civil war
  • You can also follow events on BBC Arabic
  • Live page reporters: Aidan Lewis, Jude Sheerin, Becky Branford and Anna Jones
  • All times in GMT

2300We're now closing our minute-by-minute coverage of the crisis in Libya for the night. Thanks for following today's events with the BBC. You can continue to find the latest news on Libya and the rest of world from the

2259From Ramtane Lamamra of the African Union: "The current situation requires urgent African action in order to facilitate immediate cessation of hostilities."

2245The African Union has created a panel of five heads of state to travel to Libya. It has rejected any foreign military intervention.

2238Col Gaddafi's government sent a text message to residents in Tripoli warning imams against allowing protests after Friday prayers tomorrow, the Associated Press reports.

2235 Halwasa Guy tweets: "If the media in #Tripoli can't report freely then they SHOULD GO HOME. Stop interviewing Gaddafi only and sitting in your hotels.#libya"

2226Pascale Harter in Benghazi says people there were all watching a speech by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to supporters earlier in which he said: "I have two words to our brothers and sisters in the east: We're coming."

2222The Saudi interior ministry says police fired over the heads of protesters in the eastern province, and that one of the three people injured was a policeman, Reuters reports.

2218The BBC's Pascale Harter says people in Benghazi are fearful that if pro-Gaddafi forces continue their offensive, the eastern, rebel-controlled city could itself come under attack from the air.

2211 Miguel Marquez tweets: "Alright really going to bed now. One last thought Tripoli is REALLY quiet except for occasional single gunshots. Eerie"

2206The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least seven journalists in Libya are unaccounted for.

2156More on the statement from Gulf ministers (see 2056): "The [GCC] foreign ministers council stresses that the existing Libyan regime is illegitimate and calls for the need to initiate contacts with the interim national council." The council urged Arab League foreign ministers, due to meet in Cairo on Saturday, "to shoulder their responsibilities in taking necessary measures to stop the bloodshed".

2146 feb17libya tweets: "#Tripoli is under an occupation. point. blank. period #Gaddaficrimes #Libya #Feb17"

2137 Nick Kristof of the New York Times tweets: "2 trends: West inches toward NoFlyZone; Libya gains against rebels. When the NFZ is finally ready, it may be too late."

2130Here's a link to the recent French-British statement addressed to the president of the European council.

2120The unrest in Saudi Arabia comes a day before a planned protest in the Gulf country, which has been organised through Facebook and Twitter.

2116The US says it will closely monitor the situation in Saudi Arabia. From White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes: "What we have said to the Saudis and to all the people of the region is that we're going to support a set of universal values in any country in the region and that includes the right to peaceful assembly, to peaceful protests, to peaceful speech."

2107Calling for immediate air and sea blockades, Mr Jallil says Col Gaddafi "using the sea for several purposes such as transportation of arms (to his troops) and to attack us, and to allow illegal immigrants to flee to Europe from the ports he is controlling."

2104Have quotes now from the BBC World Service interview with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the rebel council: "We expect countries to gradually recognise us as Gaddafi is determined to either rule, or kill the Libyans."

2056Gulf ministers also say the Libyan regime has lost it legitimacy, Reuters reports.

2054French-British statement: "It is clear to us the (Libyan) regime has lost any legitimacy that it could have. To end the suffering of the Libyan people, Muammar Gaddafi and his clique must leave."

2052US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says at a press conference that the international community has moved quickly and forcfully over Libya. She says more than $32bn of assets linked to the Gaddafi regime have been frozen.

2051More from Britain and France: they are calling on the EU to consider Libya's National Transitional Council as a valid political interlocutor.

2046From a BBC Arabic correspondent in Saudi Arabia: Saudi police opened fire against protesters in the in the city of Katif (eastern Saudi Arabia). Three people were injured. Witnesses who helped rush the injured into hospitals said the injuries were not serious.

2044 Halwasa Guy tweets: "Just saw Saif's interview... LOL he's basically threatening the whole world.. if that's not bluffing then I don't know what is #libya #feb17"

2039There's a join British-French statement coming through. The two countries are calling on Col Gaddafi and his camp to leave.

2035 Columnist Mona Eltahawy tweets: "It will be #Saudi women who will fuel their revolution. Yalla Sisters! And Yalla Brothers who support them. Yes, Saudi men vs oppression"

2030The White House also says it is in direct contact with rebel groups. This from spokesman Jay Carney: "We are still engaged in the process of assessing those groups, the council and other individuals, to find out what their vision is, who they represent, what their ideas are and where they would take Libya in a post-Gaddafi future. But we are very engaged in that process."

2026The White House says it will shortly send disaster relief teams into eastern Libya.

2024That was at least the semblance of a regular press conference from Mr Koaem, who smiled frequently at the foreign journalists throwing questions at him. But his jauntiness and confidence seem totally detached from the bitter conflict we've seen developing in Libya.

2020Mr Koaem says that the government will let foreign media interview people taken prisoner in Zawiya, and it will "make sure" there are some al-Qaeda elements among them.

2018Libya's deputy foreign minister, Mr Koaem, promises a trip for foreign journalists to Zawiya on Friday. He says he's been complaining about the repeated delay of the trip, which was due to the fact that there were still snipers in the town.

2015Mr Koaem says the government's intention is not to have a military campaign in the east - its priority is to try "dialogue" first. He says that's why the army has been slow in progressing eastwards. "We leave it until the last moment, then we'll see if a security solution is still needed."

2007AFP reports that the plane heading to pick up the three Dutch soldiers is a Greek airforce C-130

2005Mr Koaem is trotting out the usual line that the core of the rebellion is made up of al-Qaeda militants - a charge that is laughed at by Libyan rebels. He says Libya wants an international fact-finding mission to verify what's happening on the ground.

2002Mr Koaem says there is no civil war in Libya. The government is fighting "elements" who have got their hands on weapons, he says.

2000Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled al-Koaem criticises French recognition of Libya's rebel transitional council. He warns against intervention by Western powers.

1957Libya's deputy foreign minister is giving a press conference. There's a portrait of Col Gaddafi with hands clasped on the wall behind him.

1950A plane is on its way to Tripoli to pick up those three Dutch soldiers captured last month during a botched evacuation effort in Sirte, AFP reports.

1947On the subject of oil, Libyan oil firm Agoco - which is based in Banghazi and now controlled by rebels - told Reuters on Thursday that it was making arrangements to market oil directly to foreign buyers. It said its output stood at about one third of normal levels.

1939White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterates the view that there's enough capacity in global oil supplies to cope with any disruption due to the current unrest in Arab countries.

1930 AFP news agency says Saudi have police shot and wounded three Shia protesters in the oil-rich eastern province where a protest was staged.

1926 The Spectator blog says that without intervention, Col Gaddafi will triumph over the rebels and then exact the most terrible vengeance; it predicts "this is another test that the international community will fail".

1921 Reports of Saudi security forces opening fire on protesters have had a less than buoyant effect on stock prices in the last hour.

1915 Reuters also reports shots have been heard near that demo in eastern Saudi Arabia. A rally was being held in Qatif, a city not far from Bahrain, which has seen mass protests recently.

1906 There is a commotion on Capitol Hill with calls for Obama's intelligence adviser, James Clapper, to quit after he told a Senate hearing Col Gaddafi would win his battle to cling on to power.

1901 Libyan government officials have confirmed that Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is in their custody,

1851 Reuters news agency is confirming that AP report of Saudi police dispersing protesters in the oil-producing east.

1845 A witness in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Qatif tells AP that gunfire and stun grenades were used against several hundred protesters marching in the streets on Thursday.

1843 AP is reporting that Saudi police have opened fire at a rally in the kingdom's east.

1824 Missing Brazilian correspondent Andrei Netto, who's reportedly turned up safe and well in Tripoli, was held at an undisclosed location with the Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad according to his newspaper, Estado. "All we know is that he [Netto] is well physically," says Estado's Luciana Constantino.

1808 The Brazilian correspondent reportedly detained in Tripoli, Andrei Netto, is now at the home of the Brazilian ambassador in the Libyan capital, says his newspaper, Estado. Still no sign of the Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who went missing along with Netto days ago.

1801 Meanwhile, at a meeting in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, six Gulf Arab states from the Gulf Co-operation Council vow in a statement to deal "decisively and immediately, without hesitation" against any threat to the security of any of the oil-rich monarchies, where calls for democratic reform have been mounting.

1756 A day after activists calling themselves Topple the Tyrants claimed to have struck a blow for the Libyan revolution by squatting in Saif al-Islam's plush pad in Hampstead Garden Suburb, Global Voices - an "international community of bloggers" - has been looking at some of the reaction, which includes, "If all freedom fighters did things like this western government would never house dictators."

1747 Further reports that Nicolas Sarkozy has been floating the idea of air strikes against Col Gaddafi, this time from Reuters. The French president apparently raised the plan of targeted bombings in Libya, with members of his UMP political party, two party sources say.

1743 Saif al-Islam Gaddafi confirms they have freed three Dutch soldiers seized last month during a failed attempt to evacuate two civilians by navy helicopter. "We tell them don't come back again without our permission," Col Gaddafi's son tells Reuters. "This is Libya, not Netherlands. So we release them... but we're still keeping their helicopter."

1737 Saif al-Islam also tells Reuters in his English-language interview that: "It's time for liberation. It's time for action. We are moving now. Everybody in Libya is so excited." He adds: "We will never ever give up. We will never ever surrender. This is our country. We fight here in Libya. The Libyan people, we will never ever welcome Nato, we will never ever welcome Americans here. Libya is not a piece of cake. We are not a Mickey Mouse."

1735 Saif al-Islam also tells Reuters that Libya is preparing full-scale military action to crush the rebels and won't give up, even if Western powers step in.

1732 Col Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, tells Reuters news agency that Libya is committed to introducing "democracy and freedom".

1713 US Defence Sec Robert Gates, at that summit in Brussels, on Nato sec gen's announcement earlier: "It's my impression that we're really not talking so much about increasing the number of ships, as it is about repositioning ships that are already in the region [closer to Libya]."

1707 Hillary Clinton says the US has stopped working with Libya's embassy in Washington. "We are suspending our relationship... so we expect them to end operations as the embassy of Libya," she said.

1704 CNN's Ben Wedeman tweets: "Jet flying over al-Brega...oppostion fighters shooting in air. #Libya"

1658 Halwasa Guy tweets: "Lest you think #Tripoli is with Gaddafi, people still refuse to open shops, go to school and pretend life is normal. #libya #feb17"

1657 The debate over a no-fly zone rumbles on, with a US intelligence chief, Lt Gen Ronald Burgess, telling a Senate hearing: "My understanding as I've studied in my schools, that [plan] would be considered an act of war."

1653 Libyan Youth Movement tweets: "The students have now taken the green flag down and put up the independence flag at the Libyan embassy in London #Libya #Feb17"

1651 Following France's recognition of the rebel Transitional National Council, the #TNC hashtag has taken off on Twitter, with tweeters stating their nationality and saying: "I recognise the #TNC of #libya as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people."

1646 Tripoli's ambassador to Mali, Moussa Ag Kori, has become the latest Libyan envoy to quit. He's gone into exile in Paris, BBC Monitoring reports.

1644 Times defence editor @haynesdeborah tweets: "Today Zawiyah, tomorrow Bengazi," one resident, called Mohammed Ali, told me..."

1643 Times defence editor @haynesdeborah tweets: "Rebels no where to be seen in centre of Zawiyah. Major clean up operation going on. Green flags everywhere"

1639 BBC World Today have just spoken to Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the rebel council, in which he urged foreign powers to implement a no-fly zone and a no-sailing zone off the coast. Mr Abdul Jalil said they needed weapons, and called on more countries to recognise them as Libya's leaders.

1637 Who exactly are Libya's rebel leaders? We now have a handy Q&A about the Benghazi-based Interim Transitional National Council and profiles of its leaders.

1636 Free Libyan tweets: "it is been >7 days since HOPELESS#Obama said NOW, and > 6 days since USELESS#Clinton said NOW. Both ( nowers ) are missed .!!!!!!!"

1634 Political analyst Mikhail Troitskiy in Moscow says Russia does not yet appear to have a view on whether Col Gaddafi should quit. He says it's unclear which way the Kremlin would lean in a vote on a no-fly zone. Adds: "I don't think there are strong reasons for Russia to object to isolating a brutal regime."

1627 Hillary Clinton says any unilateral US action on Libya could have "unforeseeable consequences".

1619 The BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels says he is hearing that Nato's talk about a no-fly zone is not just bluff, and that active preparations are being made.

1616 Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiminez says Spain won't follow France in officially recognising Libya's rebel Transitional National Council. Madrid recognises states not governments, she says, and such recognition had to be agreed EU-wide.

1614 Pan-Arab TV stations have been carrying promotional clips of their Libya coverage, with scenes of fighting coupled with high-tempo music. Al-Arabiya station ended their promo with the words "Libya - the change" and the one on al-Jazeera finished off with "Libya. The people make their revolution."

1612 You know the situation in Libya must be serious when it relegates discussions on Afghanistan to day two of a Nato defence ministers' summit.

1610 Nato sec gen says the situation in Libya is "an armed upheaval", but he won't be drawn into terminology as to whether it's a civil war. He says there are concerns Libya could end up as a failed state that is a breeding ground for terrorism.

1608 Libyan state TV says three Dutch soldiers - who were taken captive at the end of February during a failed attempt to evacuate two civilians by navy helicopter - are to be freed.

1606 Nato sec gen denies there has been any discussion about the possibility of air strikes on Libya, as France's Nicolas Sarkozy was reported earlier to be advocating.

1605 Nato sec gen sidesteps a question about whether Nato would have the capability to take military action in Libya, if required to do so today.

1600Nato sec gen says they have considered a no-fly zone in the event that the alliance receives a clear UN mandate. "Ministers agreed further planning will be required," he says. Adds: "Nato is united, Nato is vigilant, Nato is ready to act."

1558 Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking now in Brussels, says defence ministers there have decided to increase the presence of Nato maritime assets in central Mediterranean.

1556 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's off to Egypt and Tunisia next week, when she'll meet Libyan opposition leaders. Given the ferocity of Col Gaddafi's fightback, one must wonder how effectual such opposition will be by next week.

1548 UN News Centre tweets: "#Libya "Media must be allowed access without facing either restrictions, intimidation or violence"

1548 Libyan state TV says government forces have cleared Ras Lanuf of "armed gangs" (the rebels), but the insurgents deny it has fallen to Gaddafi forces.

1544 BBC Arabic correspondent in the eastern town of Ras Lanuf says the town's hospital has been evacuated due to the bombardment. He confirms earlier reports that a mosque has been hit. It's in a residential area, where oil workers and their families live.

1541 A witness tells BBC Arabic that tens of dead bodies litter the streets of a residential area in the oil port of Ras Lanuf, from where rebels are retreating after a ferocious a pounding in recent days.

1538 A witness in the eastern town of Brega tells BBC Arabic the rebels can handle Col Gaddafi's troops on the ground, but the air attacks are the most dangerous. He says fighter jets have attacked oil facilities in the area. Claim is difficult to verify, given the reporting restrictions.

1533 A worrying (for the rebels) assessment by the US director of national intelligence on the Libyan crisis: "We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul," James Clapper tells a Senate hearing. "He appears to be hunkering down for the duration."

1515 Tom Phillips: tweets: "Brazilian journalist [Andrei Netto] jailed near #Tripoli will be released soon, says Libya's ambassador in Sao Paulo. "

1502 Meanwhile Hisham Almiraat, a Moroccan blogger based in France, tells the BBC World Service that Wednesday's speech by King Mohammed was "a step in the right direction, but there are many grey areas". At the centre of the Moroccan opposition's demands, he says, "is the constitutional reform that the Moroccans have been calling for for so long. If Morocco would become a parliamentary system, everything else would change. What we have now is a constitution that provides the king with absolute powers. It makes accountability, which is a basic principle of democracy, impossible in Morocco."

1457 Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri described as "historic" constitutional reforms announced last night by King Mohammed. "We have a political reality in the Morocco which is totally different from Tunisia, Egypt or Libya," he told the BBC World Service. "We share the same social problems, but it is important to note that we have a credible democratic life."

1447 British Foreign Secretary William Hague tweets: "Have spoken to #Libya opposition representative Jabril about pressure on the regime, humanitarian help & no fly zone planning"

1446 Several news agencies are reporting that pro-Gaddafi forces have driven rebels out of the strategic oil port at Ras Lanuf.

1442 Muammar Gaddafi has "tens of billions" of dollars in cash hidden in Tripoli, which allows him to fight on despite an international freeze on Libyan assets, the New York Times reports.

1436 A resident in Tripoli has told a BBC producer: "We can't tell you or even my family what we feel on the phone. We are not free."

1428 A rebel source says forces loyal to Col Gaddafi have been firing rockets from offshore oil tankers at rebel positions onshore at the oil port of Ras Lanuf, Reuters reports. "I see them with my own eyes. The oil tankers are rocketing the town," the source said. "Planes are also bombing and rockets are being launched from the land."

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"I think the no-fly zone is a red herring. It's essentially shorthand for, 'Do something, but make sure it's sanitized so there are no messy consequences.' The problem is that it won't be sanitized," writes Judah Grunstein in the World Politics Review Trend Lines blog. He calls instead for a "a rapid and brief series of air strikes to destroy Libya's air force" on the ground.

1402 Another injured rebel in Ajdabiya tells BBC Arabic: "Mercenaries have occupied houses in Bin Jawad, they have tied up men, and are taking families as shields while snipers are firing in the streets." He urged European countries to impose a no-fly zone.

1348 A wounded Libyan who is being treated in Ajdabiya hospital for a leg injury sustained in Ras Lanuf airport has told BBC Arabic: "Gaddafi is attacking us with planes, tanks, rockets and heavy weapons; we are unarmed civilians and many families and kids have been hit. They attacked the residential area in Ras Lanuf. The mosque and a house next to it were hit."

1344 Libya is planning to cut diplomatic ties with France following French President Nicholas Sarkozy's recognition of a rebel grouping, the official Jana news agency reported according to AFP.

1340 Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo confirms that its missing reporter in Zawiya, Andrei Netto, is under arrest. According to the newspaper, Brazilian authorities are negotiating his release. The newspaper had has lost all contact with Mr Netto since Sunday.

1335 The BBC's Wyre Davies in Tripoli says the difficulty of reporting means it is impossible to know whether Zawiya has fallen entirely to pro-Gaddafi troops, but that almost certainly much of the city is now in the regime's hands.

1330 AFP reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed "targeted air strikes" of Libya.

1326 The man said everybody knows someone who has disappeared. "I've got a Pakistani friend whose father has a construction company. One of the engineers has been arrested and accused of being a member of al-Qaeda. He's been missing for two weeks. My friend doesn't dare to leave his house because Pakistani or Afghan-looking people are being accused of having connections with al-Qaeda. He is absolutely terrified."

1324 A Libyan in the UK told the BBC his family back home are becoming more afraid of speaking on the phone. "Everyone is terrified. Now there's an offer for free phone calls abroad, but people know it's a trap to get them calling and talking about what's happening. You have to be very cautious about what you say on the phone. My sister told me: It's ok, we are fine, but I hear her crying."

1318 Mr Rasmussen laid out three conditions for Nato involvement in Libya: there must be a "demonstrable need" for Nato action, a clear legal basis and firm support from the region.

1315 Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has just told the alliance's meeting in Brussels that "time is of the essence" in Libya and they must "envisage many different possible situations as part of prudent planning."

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1314 Alexander Koryagin in Elektrogorsk, Russia, writes: "Western democracies cry about hundreds of people already killed in Libya. But they are going to kill thousands of people loyal to Gaddafi. A no-fly zone implies ground fire and Nato will be forced to bomb and kill many. Are you ready to put your hands in blood? It would mean that human lives mean nothing for the West. The only reason is a dislike of Gaddafi. How foolish! Removing Gaddafi will create a power vacuum, just as it was in Iraq."

1312 More from UN rights chief Navi Pillay on the BBC team. In a statement, she said: "For them to be targeted, detained and treated with such cruelty, which could amount to torture, is completely unacceptable and in serious violation of international law."

1308 The BBC's Matthew Price in Brussels says there will definitely not be an announcement at the Nato meeting today on setting up a no-fly zone over Libya. The military alliance has said all along that such a step could only be taken with the backing of a UN Security Council resolution, he says.

1306 The BBC's Pascal Harter in Benghazi says she has been shown mobile phone footage of what was alleged to be the bodies of soldiers who had been bound and shot for refusing to open fire on civilians.

1305 Libyan TV is, however, showing footage of what it says are confessions from Al-Qaeda militants captured in Ras Lanuf. The report says weapons have been seized from defeated Al-Qaeda fighters in Zawiya. Col Gaddafi has long maintained that the terrorist organisation is behind the unrest.

1301 The UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay has said the abuse suffered by the BBC team in Libya could amount to torture. BBC Monitoring says there was no coverage of the incident on state TV.

1258 CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman tweets: "Intense mortar bombardment on ras lanouf at 1230 pm local. Hospital hit. No injuries... "We are doctors, we have no weapons. Why are they doing this?" Dr Fathi from bombarded Ras Lanouf hospital."

1255 AFP says rebels have retreated from the town of Ras Lanuf, crowded into dozens of vehicles and coming under rocket attack.

1254 BBC Arabic have been speaking to a man who was injured in Bin Jawad. He said the Libyan army was using heavy weaponary to bombard the city during the day, while mercenaries have been attacking houses and taking civilians as hostages. Snipers are attacking rebels when it is dark, he said.

1250 In paying tribute to the BBC journalists who were detained in Libya, Sir George Young, leader of the House of Commons, said they had gone through a "horrendous" ordeal. "We should never underestimate the risks that many people take in order to bring this country and the rest of the world the truth about countries like Libya."

1248 The IOM said more than 252,000 people have crossed into Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and Algeria in the past three weeks and more than 20,000 remain stranded in Tunisia and Egypt.

1247 The International Organisation for Migration has said that while the numbers of sub-Saharan Africans managing to leave Libya remain small, they are mounting. Mohamed Abdiker, IOM's Director of Operations, said this was "an encouraging sign," given the reports that such groups were being attacked as suspected mercenaries in Libya.

1243 Christian Cordon, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, told the BBC there is "huge frustration" on the part of the organisation about the lack of access to large parts of Libya. Mr Cordon urged all parties to protect civilians and allow for the wounded and detainees to receive medical treatment.

1240 A BBC contact in Ajdabiya who has visited a friend in hospital said people had been arriving there through the night. "Three people were dead and five people with injuries came in. But they are getting treatment here," he said.

1237 Libya's state news agency has quoted a government officials as saying Tripoli is considering "severing its relations with France because of information being circulated about France's damaging intervention in Libya's internal affairs".

1235 A spokesman for the British Foreign Office has said the UK recognises states and not governments, but added: "The interim national council are valid interlocutors, with whom we wish to work closely."

1233 A member of the rebel movement who is outside Libya told the BBC he is unable to contact anyone in Zawiya, which was fiercely attacked earlier this week. But his contacts in Tripoli have told him hundreds of people died there in the shelling.

1232 Stuart Hughes, BBC World Affairs producer, tweets: " Leader of the Commons Sir George Young has paid tribute to @bbcnews journalists detained in #libya."

1230 Correspondents have said it is increasingly hard to report in Libya, despite Col Gaddafi's earlier assurances that they would be able to report freely. Three BBC journalists who were detained and beaten earlier this week have given a disturbing account of their ordeal at the hands of pro-Gaddafi force.

1226 More on the Guardian journalist who is missing in Libya. The paper says it has contacted Libyan officials in Tripoli and London to find out whether Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is in custody. The Guardian said Mr Abdul-Ahad is an Iraqi national who has worked extensively in Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan "reporting on the stories of ordinary people and their suffering in times of conflict".

1223 A spokesman for the rebel council in Benghazi has said France is "breaking the ice for the European Union" in officially recognising them. "This is the first nail in the coffin of Gaddafi. We expect all Europe to follow," Mustafa Gheriani told reporters.

1216 Expanding on her earlier report that the Spanish Foreign Ministry had denied plans to formally recognise the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid quotes a spokesman for the prime minister's office as saying important discussions were taking place in Brussels on the situation, both today and Friday, but that the situation in Libya was "very complicated" and needed discussion. He said if there was a need for action it would be taken "together" as a co-ordinated European foreign policy decision.

1212 The Libyan opposition has welcomed a move by France to recognise them as the country's rightful representatives and called on other European countries to follow suit, reports AFP.

1211 The EU has formally agreed added sanctions on Col Gaddafi's regime, notably targeting the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) - the overseas investment vehicle for Tripoli's oil revenues - AFP reports. The new sanctions on a Libyan individual as well as five economic "entities", also including the Libyan Central Bank, are to enter into force on Friday when published in the European Union's official journal, it says.

1209 Amid rumours that Spain and Portugal were about to follow France in switching diplomatic status from Col Gaddafi's government to the Libyan opposition grouping the Transitional National Council, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid says the Spanish Foreign Ministry has denied this.

1202 Germany has frozen the assets of the Libyan Central Bank and other state-run agencies in an attempt to cut off funding to Col Gaddafi's regime, says Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle according to AP.

1155 Ras Lanuf hospital has been evacuated after a nearby rocket attack, says an AFP reporter.

1154 As commentators debate whether the UK and others should implement a no-fly zone in Libya, the BBC has rounded up some contrasting views on the topic. Former US Air Force chief Gen Merrill McPeak thinks it would be easy to impose, while the former commander of UN forces in Bosnia, Bob Stewart, disagrees.

1148 Urgent efforts are under way to establish the whereabouts of the Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, the newspaper reports. He last made contact with the newspaper on Sunday. He was travelling with Andrei Netto of the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo, who is also missing.

1145 Jeel Ghathub tweets: "#Libya's central bank has ordered banks to recirculate old currency. This is a sign that #Gaddafi is facing liquidity problems".

1144 Warplanes sent by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi have bombed the oil town of Brega - about 90 km (56 miles) east of Ras Lanuf - reports Reuters, extending attacks deeper into rebel-held territory in the east of Libya, rebels reported. Brega has not been targeted for several days.

1141 Cassandra Nelson, Mercy Corps humanitarian aid worker  tweets:" Huge Opposition rally Friday in Benghazi. Local leaders from many east #Libya towns expected."

1140 A Libyan news agency says it is in possession of a "grave" secret that could topple French President Nicolas Sarkozy, BBC Monitoring reports. "Al-Jamahiriyah news agency learnt today there is a grave secret that would definitely lead to the toppling of Sarkozy and perhaps his trial. The secret is related to the funding of his electoral campaign," said an urgent caption on Libyan TV.

1134 Italy is to seek the opinion of other EU countries before deciding whether to recognise the Libyan Transitional National Council, says Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi according to Reuters.

1130 A rebel in Brega tells the BBC that Col Gaddafi's air forces attacked in the last few minutes. "It wasn't in the residential area, but close to a group of rebels at a checkpoint," he says. "The air strikes are our biggest problem. We really can't handle them, can't control them. We need a no-fly zone in order to be able to move forward and go to Tripoli."

1127 Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado says he has sent a message to Col Gaddafi through a Tripoli envoy saying: "The Gaddafi regime is over", reports AFP news agency.

1123 Fighting with heavy weapons is continuing in Bin Jawad and Ras Lanuf, a resident of Ajdabiya who has regular contacts with rebels from the frontline of the fighting told BBC Arabic. He said three people had died and five injured people were rushed to Ajdabiya hospital today and that the rebels had regained Bin Jawad.

1120 There is a flurry of diplomatic activity going on in Europe, reports the BBC's Matthew Price in Brussels. As Paris meets Libyan rebel envoys, the Greek foreign minister also met an envoy for Col Gaddafi's government this morning. "I sense we're moving into a diplomatic phase," our correspondent says. "Nobody wants military action because they fear getting bogged down in Libya. There may be the beginnings of a diplomatic solution to what's happening now."

1118 Ali Essawi, formerly Col Gaddafi's ambassador to India who defected, has just announced in Paris that not only is France recognising the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people but that a French envoy will be sent to Benghazi, reports private French news channel La Chaine Info.

1057 Peter Beaumont, Observer foreign affairs editor tweets: "Hearing that now Libyan authorities trying to take laptops off journalists leaving Tripoli airport along with SIM cards." He later adds: "Less and less flights leaving Tripoli. Tunisair stopped as of last night. Soon we'll be unable to fly out."

1047 France is the first country to officially recognise the Transitional Council. It is unclear whether other EU countries will follow suit, as the policy is usually to recognise the legitimacy of states, not governments.

1042 AFP reports that two shells have landed in the centre of the oil town of Ras Lanuf, hitting the ground near a hospital.

1040 After the announcement that France has recognised the rebel council, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has urged other EU states to engage in dialogue with its leaders, AFP reports.

1039 kazkazom tweets: "Big thank u 2 France for standing on the side of Libyan people. We will never forget u were the first 2 accept our TNC [Transitional National Council]."

1035 More from Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He said it was clearly stated in the UN charter and international accords that "each nation has the right to decide its own future". As such, he said, "intervention in internal affairs, especially military interference, is unacceptable".

1030 With all supplies usually coming from Tripoli, the Misrata doctor said vaccinations and milk for babies are starting to run out and chemotherapy drugs are in short supply. He said the situation in the city remains quiet at the moment - rebel supporters have full control following attacks by government forces over the weekend. But he is expecting another pro-Gaddafi attack soon.

1028 A doctor working in Misrata has told the BBC he expects his hospital's supply of anaesthetic to run out in less than one week. The hospital is also low on resources for dialysis - 300 of their patients would die within one day if they become unable to receive the treatment, he says.

1027 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been asked by a reporter of state TV whether Russia would support a UN Security Council resolution to introduce a no-fly zone over Libya, reports BBC Monitoring. Mr Lavrov said: "This is clearly a hypothetical question, because nobody on the Security Council has introduced any proposals yet."

1021 Libya has descended into civil war, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said at a news conference. Jakob Kellenberger called on Libyan authorities to grant the humanitarian agency access to western areas including the capital Tripoli and reminded both sides that civilians and medical facilities must not be targeted.

1018 The BBC's Pascale Harter in Benghazi says joyful expectation has given way to grim determination there. But everyone says they are in the fight against Col Gaddafi for the long haul. The Transitional National Council can't understand why it's taking the international community so long to act, she says.

1005 France recognises the Libyan Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, says the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy according to Reuters.

1003 The president of the International Red Cross says doctors in the Libyan towns of Ajdabiya and Misrata are seeing a dramatic rise in the number of casualties, mostly civilians, following heavy fighting and air strikes. Jakob Kellenberger says the aid organisation is cut off from access in western areas including Tripoli but believes those are "even more severely affected by the fighting" than eastern rebel-held territories.

0958 There is more confirmation that Zawiya has been won back by government forces, with a witness saying as much to AFP news agency.

0956 Josh Rogin, writing on Foreign Policy blog, says: "Though the Obama administration hasn't yet decided whether or how to aid the Libyan opposition, the White House is working to stop the flow of mercenaries fighting for [Gaddafi] entering the country from countries surrounding Libya like Chad and Niger."
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0955Caroline Thomas in Zarziss, Tunisia, writes: "Although we are no longer in Libya, we are in phone contact with friends in Tripoli... Since the first Tripoli uprising, the night of 21 February, most of the population have been trapped in their houses... One friend has recently told us that the families of the dead protesters are too afraid to take the bodies to the cemetery, so they are burying them in their gardens, or keeping them in their apartments with air con on very cold to try to preserve them. These are their dead sons, brothers, husbands, fathers. Everybody we speak to in Tripoli say they are absolutely terrified of Gaddafi's forces."

0952 But Ahmed Jibril - an adviser to the Transitional National Council set up by Libyan rebels in Benghazi - calls upon the international community to act urgently and carry out air strikes on Col Gaddafi's assets. "The people are determined to have a new state based on institutions, respect for international law and human rights. We have breathed the air of freedom and are not willing to give it up," he tells the BBC.

0950 "Intervention tends to go wrong - it tends to have consequences that are the opposite of what you meant," Jeremy Greenstock - who was the UK's ambassador to the UN in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq - tells the BBC. He reels off a list of countries where a case for intervention could be made, and asks: "Where will you draw the line?"

0940 Ghazi Gheblawi tweets: "in #Sirte they can hear fighting and bombing outside the city coming from the east towards #BinJawad, and today it was intense #Libya".

0938 "I can't imagine an easier military problem," Gen Merrill McPeak, a former US Air Force chief of staff, has said of the imposition of a no-fly zone in a Nicholas D Kristof op-ed piece in the New York Times. "'If we can't do this, what can we do?' he asked, adding: 'I think it would have a real impact. It might change their calculation of who might come out on top. Just the mere announcement of this might have an impact.'"

0930 Sybella Wilkes from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) tweets: " V.worried about 50 Eritrean + Ethiopian refugees- detained and sent to Twesha detention centre near#Tripoli #Libya".

0925 Panos Haritos tweets: "#Gaddafy artillery pounding #Ras Lanouf residential area. Ambulances evacuate injured rebel fighters to Azedabia, #Libya (via phone)."

0921 Mario Vanella tweets: "Reports that artillery assault on #raslanuf by pro-gov forces now on 3 sides. From sea to nth, desert to sth, road to west #libya."

0917 On the air raid which reports suggest has been taking place in the oil port of Ras Lanuf, a Reuters witness says bombs or missiles are landing a few kilometres from Ras Lanuf oil refinery and close to a Libyan Emirates Oil Referiny Company (LERCO) building. "One bomb landed on a civilian house in Ras Lanuf," rebel fighter Izeddine Sheikhy said. A warplane was said to be circling over Ras Lanuf.

0911 Col Gaddafi would agree to talks on the transition of power, Portuguese daily Publico on Thursday quoted a diplomatic source as saying a day after Foreign Minister Luis Amado met a Gaddafi envoy in Lisbon. But the source said it was too early to assess the sincerity of the statement.

0856 Although some commentators argue that a no-fly zone would have little impact on Col Gaddafi - whose forces appear, for example, to have succeeded in reclaiming Zawiya through a ground campaign - the BBC's Wyre Davies points out that much of the government effort to retake important rebel-held territory in the east hinges on an air campaign.

0851 In France, members of the Libyan opposition are to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy. Eric Rouleau, a former French ambassador who knows Libya well, says the talks show that "the French government is prepared to deal with the [Benghazi-based opposition grouping] National Libyan Council". "The French government was not enthusiastic about the Tunisian revolt and not enthusiastic about the Egyptian revolt, and now they are trying to demonstrate that France is strongly supporting the Libyan revolution," Mr Rouleau told the BBC World Service.

0845 An air strike has targeted Libyan rebel lines east of Ras Lanuf, an oil port on the westernmost edge of rebel-held territory in the east, reports AFP.

0842 An envoy for the Libyan government is to meet Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis on Thursday, reports Reuters.

0830 The BBC's Pascale Harter in Benghazi says Russia's ban on arms sales to Libya will have little discernable effect on the ground in Libya for some time, as Col Gaddafi has huge stockpiles of weapons.

0826 A Yemen opposition spokesman has said President Saleh's offer of reforms (see earlier entry) comes too late and does not meet protesters' demands, says Reuters.

0824 Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo says it has lost all contact with its reporter in Zawiya. The newspaper says it has unconfirmed information that 34-year-old Andrei Netto was placed under arrest, along with another Libyan journalist and a guide. The editors have not been able to contact Mr Netto since Sunday. The Brazilian embassy is looking into the matter.

0820 The UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox has told the BBC he believes we are seeing a "relative stalemate between the military forces" in Libya. "The regime itself is digging in around Tripoli. It is able to protect its own areas and the oil installations but it doesn't seem to have the military mass to move decisively against the rebel forces and the reverse is true. What that potentially means is a lot of suffering for the people of Libya and the best result for the whole country is for Col Gaddafi to realise he is a liability to his country and people, and to leave."

0814 The EU is set to unveil new financial sanctions on Col Gaddafi's government today, says the BBC's business reporter Mark Gregory. It is expected to announce plans to freeze assets and stop transactions involving the Libyan central bank and several of the country's commercial banks. It is also likely to target the Libyan Investment Authority - a sovereign fund which invests the country's oil wealth and enjoys stakes in Italian banks, Juventus football team and the company that owns the Financial times newspaper.

0807 The BBC's Matthew Price in Brussels says no formal decisions or major announcements are expected from the Nato defence ministers meeting today - they are likely instead privately to draw up contingency plans. EU and Nato officials all insist any action in Libya will have to be driven by a UN Security Council resolution.

0756 Ahead of a Nato meeting to discuss the possibility of a no-fly zone, a Libyan doctor living in the UK, Dr Ahmed Sewelhi, whose father and three brothers were arrested for speaking out about Col Gaddafi's regime, tells the BBC: "My mother called me from Tripoli two days ago... saying 'please ask the West for help, we need a no-fly zone, there's too many people being killed'. And she was just crying and crying. And the people, both in Benghazi and in Tripoli and in Misrata and in Zawiya are just crying out for help and nobody is listening to them. Gaddafi was armed by the West, I think it's time for the Western governments to listen to the people."

0748 Expanding on the news that Russia is to ban weapons sales to Libya, the Russian daily Kommersant apparently quoted a source last week as saying Russia had $2bn (£1.2bn) worth of arms contracts with Libya and was close to concluding deals to sell military aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles worth another $1.8bn.

0729 In a live speech currently being televised, the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has announced Yemen will move to a parliamentary system whereby a "government elected by the parliament will take control of the country's executive powers" and a new constitution will be adopted.

0725 Sources suggest that Zawiya, about 50km west of Tripoli, has in effect now fallen to government forces after five days of heavy bombardment, says the BBC's Wyre Davies in Tripoli. State TV is showing government troops and supporters inside the town. But he says that Zawiya is actually quite a small provincial town - the fight government forces have had to retake it suggests a massive show of force will be needed to retake towns in the east, where the rebels' position is stronger.

0717 Russia is to ban all weapons sales to Libya, the Kremlin says, effectively suspending its arms contracts with Col Muammar Gaddafi's government, according to Reuters news agency.

0715Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of events in Libya, where anti-government demonstrators are attempting to topple their ruler of the past 41 years, Col Muammar Gaddafi. Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

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