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Page last updated at 23:12 GMT, Friday, 25 March 2011

Mid-East crisis as it happened: 25 March

  • International forces carry out further air strikes in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, where fighting on the ground continues
  • Nato is expected to take command of the entire Libya operation from the US within days
  • Protests are reported in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and other cities, with unconfirmed news of deaths near the protest hub of Deraa
  • Tens of thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators rally in Yemen's capital Sanaa
  • You can also follow developments on BBC Arabic
  • Live page reporters: Aidan Lewis, Joe Boyle, Jude Sheerin and Anna Jones

2309That wraps up our minute-by-minute coverage of events and unrest from around the Middle East on Friday, thanks for joining us and please keep checking the website's news pages for all the latest updates.

2305The BBC's Jim Muir has written a piece of solid analysis putting Syria's current troubles in context.

2240President Obama is due to make the speech on Monday at the National Defense University. He's been under pressure in Washington to explain the goals of the international mission in Libya.

2238US President Barack Obama is to make an address on Libya on Monday at 1930 EDT.

2229For a flavour of Libyan official media broadcasts. Both Al-Jamahiriyah and Al-Libyah TVs continue to convey the message that the real objective of the attacks on Libya was "to divide the country and to share its wealth", while recalling the "chaos" created by "Western democracy which destroyed Iraq".

2221Meanwhile, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who was Libya's deputy ambassador to the UN before withdrawing support for Colonel Gaddafi, appears optimistic: "We have some information from inside the country now, there is a kind of chaos among the security forces of Gaddafi," he tells the BBC. "I think in the next two days or three days, if the attacks continue on the same level, we expect more damage to the Gaddafi forces and I think maybe we will see some important changes."

2214Britain's Guardian newspaper has interviewed UK Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke on Libya. He warns of the possible risk of a Lockerbie-style revenge attack if Colonel Gaddafi remains in place: "The British people have reason to remember the curse of Gaddafi - Gaddafi back in power, the old Gaddafi looking for revenge, we have a real interest in preventing that."

2159And a Misrata resident tells AFP: "The artillery shelling has been going on since Thursday night... They are firing on everything that moves... There is no water, no electricity and supplies are running short."

2157Rebel radio has announced that Misrata is under seige, BBC Monitoring reports. A radio announcer said: "We urge listeners to convey our voice to the international bodies. Misrata is besieged. There are no communications. It is hard to report what is happening in the town and we are using this medium to tell what is happening here. The town is being pounded by long and short-range artillery. Mortar shells are falling on homes, shops and mosques, but the population is determined and resisting the hordes of the tyrant".

2149The Libyan health ministry official who told AFP that 114 people had been killed in air strikes (see 2114) was not able to say how many of those deaths were civilian and how many were military. A government spokesman said on Thursday that almost 100 civilians had been killed.

2143More from the Misrata resident - whose account cannot be independently verified: "The human and medical situation is awfully serious, you can't imagine what's happening here. Some bodies comes to the polyclinic without head or arms or legs, some are totally burned, and the injured people don't have a place or space for treatment."

2137The BBC has been in touch with a resident in the western city of Misrata who says Gaddafi forces have taken control of new areas there, and have been launching fireworks to celebrate. "It appears they're celebrating and the local libyan TV is there to record that, to make it seem that Misrata is under control of Gaddafi again."

2127And here's the commander of US Africa Command, Gen Carter Ham, on the challenge of protecting civilians in Libya: "It is the most difficult mission that we have, when we have the regime forces attacking civilians and they're in very close contact... We try to the very best that we can to attack with precision and we are always conscious about limiting, not causing civilian casualties."

2119In light of those claims by the Libyan health ministry, here's some analysis by the BBC's John Simpson in the Libyan capital. "In Tripoli the war is a propaganda one and the authorities here want to persuade the world that large numbers of civilians are dying in coalition raids. It's a strategy that's worked well in the past - in 1986, for instance, when the United States bombed Tripoli. Now it's proving less effective. The coalition countries know that killing civilians would be disastrous in this war and they're plainly making big efforts to avoid it. Libyan television often shows pictures which purport to be those of civilian victims but they're impossible to verify."

2114The Libyan health ministry says at least 114 people have died and 445 have been injured in air strikes by international forces, AFP reports.

2050More on Ajdabiya from al-Jazeera: Libyan rebels say they have entered the government-controlled city from the east, and many pro-Gaddafi fighters were held hostage after fierce fighting.


2033More on Qatar's first mission over Libya: the French military's website says two Mirage fighter planes took part, accompanied by two French jets.


2022Jordan's PM, who we heard from earlier, goes on TV to accuse "brother Muslims" of "receiving instructions from Egypt and Syria to execute plans against Jordan", following clashes in Amman between pro-monarchy and pro-reform protesters.

2012Reuters' rebel source, Saadoun, also says: "We had an encounter with snipers today and some were forced to leave the buildings. Some were killed and others fled. We do not have exact figures of their casualties but three of our fighters were killed."

2010And more from Reuters on the violence in the Libyan city of Misrata, quoting a rebel named Saadoun - whose claims cannot be independently verified - as saying: "There was shelling this morning and almost all of the day. It targeted a residential area in the outskirts of Misrata called al-Jazeera. Six people were killed including three sisters aged two, five and 12 years old. This residential compound is northwest of Misrata and they attacked it with mortars and tanks."

2001Amnesty also says reports on Friday suggested Syrian security forces had again opened fire on protesters in al-Sanamayn and carried out arrests in Damascus, a day after the authorities pledged to investigate the violence.

2000Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for Middle East and North Africa, on Deraa: "The excessive force apparently again being used by security forces is the latest example of the Syrian authorities' appalling and brutal response to recent dissent, and makes their pledge to investigate the violence sound rather hollow. If the words we heard from the Syrian government yesterday are to mean anything, they must immediately issue clear orders to restrain the security forces to prevent further loss of life."

1958More from Amnesty International on Deraa. It says the names of 55 people who were killed in the area before Friday's protests have been passed on by "credible organisations and contacts".

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1955Anonymous Syrian in London, writes: "I'm a Syrian journalist doing my postgraduate studies. I am anti-government to the core - I've been arrested three times in Syria due to my views and works. I'm glad that my people finally woke up from their coma and broke the barriers of fear. Yet, I'm against the way they are conducting the demonstrations. They lack an agenda with specific goals and demands. It is not only about marching in the streets and calling for such elusive things like freedom or democracy. They should organize themselves more and establish political agenda with strong tools to apply it, because certainly copying the Egyptian and Tunisian model won't work in Syria. We need to start the process of building a state with healthy political life and institutions, a state that can guarantee citizens' rights. The Syrians are fed up with empty slogans. We need actions."

1953More from the restive Syrian city of Deraa. Reuters quotes Amnesty International as saying that 55 people have died there in the past week.

1939Reuters quotes a rebel source in Misrata as saying that tank fire has killed six people on the outskirts of the Libyan city, while separate clashes in the city have left three rebel fighters and "some" government snipers dead.

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1932 Mohamed Mesrati tweets: "Zawya needs help guys.They kill any young man there and people lives in bloody mess! DON'T FORGET #ZAWYA #LIBYA #feb17"

1933Nato names Canada's Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard as the soldier who will lead the alliance's military operations in Libya.

1923More from the Jordanian PM: he blames Islamists for the protests, and warns of consequences if there are any more clashes.

1912Reaction from Jordan where protests broke out earlier (see 1729, 1557): prime minister says clash was beginning of chaos, and is unacceptable, says Reuters quoting Jordan TV.

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1906Adel in Southport, UK, writes: "After countless phone calls to family and friends in Libya and long hours of information exchange, I am yet to hear about any civilian casualties since the beginning of the no-fly zone by the international forces."

1900The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen believes Syria's President Assad has his fate in his own hands: "New demonstrations suggest the people might be getting over their fear of the security forces and what they could do. It's clear that the population of Syria, predominantly young, as in other Arab countries, is not immune from the mood of rebellion they've seen take hold via the TV and the Web in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya. What happens next in Syria depends most on the way the president and his advisers handle the demonstrations."

1850The BBC's Ian Pannell was out in eastern Libya a little earlier, and has just filed his report: "We've just driven in from the eastern side of Ajdabiya heading into the city and in the distance there are plumes of black smoke rising from around the city, there is a fairly constant sound of booms which would suggest artillery mortars perhaps, air burst artillery as well. A number of fighters have headed into the city ahead of us and the crackle of gunfire is audible every few seconds. Last night British jets attacked government troops here and that's given succour to the rebels. Without it, they're simply out-gunned and unable to fight for control and protect the people who live here."

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1836Rahna in Sanaa, Yemen, says: "I am a staff nurse at a hospital in Sanaa. I'm one of thousands of Indians living here in Yemen. We are all afraid for our safety. The Indian Embassy has told us: 'Go home, leave Yemen.' But the Yemenis are telling us: 'Stay here, Saleh will step down, things will be better soon.'"


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1833Nader in Cardiff, UK, writes: "For those who doubt who is loyal to Gaddafi - there are people who simply love him, who consider him the only legitimate representative of Libya, his tribe and other tribes who support him and lately Libyans who are against the foreign intervention. Are there Libyans who don't like him? Of course there are. But we can't ignore that there are also many who support him and are loyal to him."

1830US Vice-Admiral Gortney says the US is "using every tool in our tool box" to cut off contact between the Libyan leadership in Tripoli and pro-Gaddafi forces on the ground.

1826The US is expected to hand over command of the Libya mission to Nato in the next few days. But US Vice-Admiral William Gortney says he's not ruling out the possibility that command of the operation could pass to another country, rather than to Nato.

1824More from our correspondent: "President Saleh has been considered a vital ally in the fight against al-Qaeda but after more than 30 years at the top, he's on the way out. And Western countries once again are struggling to keep up with the mood of change that is sweeping through the Middle East."

1823The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reckons Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is on his way out: "He promised to hand over power after weeks of demonstrations, but only to what he called 'safe hands'. He's been negotiating with a senior general who joined the opposition this week, after the regime killed about 50 protesters at a rally in Sanaa, the capital. But so far, no deal has been made. During the day tens of thousands of protesters, some supporting the president and some the opposition, were said to have been on the streets of Sanaa."

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1818Abdul Monem in Stafford, UK, writes: "Most people in Tripoli say that in the last weeks people have lost confidence in Gaddafi and are secretly supporting the rebels. Mine and my wife's family are in that number. "Bye bye Gaddafi", many say in their homes. "Just wait until they get you!"

1813A full quote on Reuters of state TV's announcement on promotions: "Brother leader of the revolution has issued a decision to promote all members of the armed people who are currently drafted in his various military units for their heroic and courageous fight against the crusader, colonialist assault."

1811 US ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz says: "It's clear that the regime is reaching out to several possible mediators, interlocutors to try to get a message across. It clearly indicates at least some kind of desperation."

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1807 LibyanDictator in a couple of tweets: "#Misrata experiencing heavy shelling in residential area, shelling targeting houses and flat blocks specifically. Gaddafi forces ambushed by #Misrata fighters: 3 Toyotas with anti aircraft destroyed, 7 captured. Most mercenaries got away. #Libya #Feb17"


1805Col Gaddafi's promotions will also include "general security" and the police, Reuters says.

1759Reuters flashes an interesting news line from Libyan state TV: Col Gaddafi has apparently promoted all members of the armed forces.

1757White House spokesman Jay Carney says the US calls on the Syrian government to stop violence against demonstrators and arrests of rights activists, saying: "We strongly condemn the Syrian government's attempts to repress and intimidate demonstrators."

1753Nato says Qatar has joined the operation to police the no-fly zone in Libya - became the first Arab country to fly combat missions over the country.

1749Barack Obama is to brief Congress leaders by phone on handing control of the Libya operation to Nato, his spokesman says.

1747Christian Solidarity Worldwide has issued a statement saying that at least 200 refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia who have fled from eastern Libya to Egypt are being denied humanitarian assistance as authorities seek to repatriate them.

1737Syria's information says that the situation is calm all over the country, Al-Arabiya TV reports. Not quite what we've been hearing.

1735More from the African Union in Addis Ababa (see 1719). Former Libyan Prime Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi says Libya is ready to talk to opposition rebels and accept political reforms, AP reports.

1729Reuters also says one person has died in Jordan. It cites Amer Khairy Saad as saying that his 57-year-old father Khairy died in hospital after police beat him as they were trying to disperse crowds near the interior ministry.

1726AFP reporting that one protester has died in Amman, Jordan.

1725Adel, the head of the rebels' media committee in the town of Zintan, has told the BBC: "Life is coming back to normal. We pushed the army back. People in other nearby towns and cities came to help us force the Gaddafi army back. We also got lots of weapons from the retreating army and we used them to push them back further. Two days ago, we managed to capture a truck with with 180 missiles in it, so we started using them. We destroyed seven tanks and a number of 4-wheel-drive trucks."

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1722 ChangeInLibya tweets: "It's funny how Gaddafi's '2 million man march' to free Benghazi ended up being just a bus of 20. And even that could be a myth."

1719Tripoli is ready to implement a road map set out for Libya by the African Union - AFP.

1717Reuters are quoting residents as saying that security forces have killed three people in a suburb of Damascus, Mouadamieh. No independent confirmation of this.

1707In Libya, the BBC's John Simpson was among a group of foreign journalists bussed to the suburb of Tajoura, which was targeted by international forces last night. "Nearby we were shown a farmhouse that had supposedly been hit," he says. "There were fragments from a missile lying around and a smallish hole in the ground where something had possibly landed. But the holes in the wall that we were told were shrapnel could only have been the result of someone firing an automatic rifle at it. And although the farmer, a strong Gaddafi supporter, said his 18-year-old daughter had been injured, the gardener said it was a four-year-old boy. It all looked like a rather inadequate set-up, done for effect."

1657The BBC's Lina Sinjab in Syria says protesters in Deraa were chanting for freedom and criticising Maher Al-Assad, the president's brother and the head of the presidential guard. She says the protests around the country are unprecedented in recent Syrian history, and despite the violence and bloodshed, it appears that Syrians are losing their fear of their rulers.

1653Libyan state TV reports that some refineries are operating again, fuel reserves are sufficient. This follows reports of fuel shortages in government-held areas, which has led to long queues at petrol stations.

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1650Abu from Damascus writes: "I'm trying to boycott everything the Syrian president's cousin (Rami Makhlouf) owns. This mean, no telecommunications, no milk, no restaurants and no hotels....guess i'll be buying my own cow then...."

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1645A doctor in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata has told the BBC: "The Gaddafi troops are trying to enter the city from the west side of Misrata through an area called Zrieg, which is about 15km from the city centre."

1642 Here's a gallery we've done with some of the latest images of protests in Yemen.

1634The rebel-controlled radio in Al-Bayda, eastern Libya, has been speaking to a regular guest, Colonel Ahmad, who assures listeners that the liberation of Ajdabiya is "imminent".

1624We also have an analysis of Turkey's apparent U-turn over Libya this week, as it switched from opposing a Nato mission to backing it.



1619We've published a feature by Hugh Schofield in Paris on French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who's been living up to his nickname of "hyper-president" as he tries to seize the moment on Libya. Critics say the French are desperate to make up for past blunders in North Africa.

1606What should the international community do about Syria and Yemen? On BBC World Have Your Say former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin says: "We should send a very strong message to all of the leaders in these countries. Sanctions should be imposed."

1604What should the rest of the world do about the unrest in Yemen and Syria? On BBC World Have Your Say former Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says: "It would be wrong for the international community to start intervening all over the place in the Arab world. That would be a disaster."

1602And in Bahrain, security forces have fired tear gas at anti-government protesters who defied a ban on public demonstrations.

1557Reports of unrest in Jordan as well now, with pro- and anti-government groups pelting each other with stones in Amman and police dispersing them with water cannon. AP and AFP both reporting dozens of injuries.

1553More from former Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on BBC World Have Your Say : "I hope that many of Colonel Gaddafi's followers will realise that things cannot go on like this. I hope many of them will leave him and start a new Libya."

1545This from the head of the French armed forces, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, on the how long the mission in Libya might last: "I doubt it will take a few days. I think it's more likely a matter of weeks. I hope it will not be a matter of months."

1538AP is reporting that the statue of Hafez al-Assad that was burned in Deraa was made of bronze, raising the question of how protesters managed to set fire to it.

1533More from former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on BBC World Have Your Say : "We are not going to go to war with Colonel Gaddafi. There is no military goal, the goal is humanitarian. Taking Gaddafi out of power is not within the mandate of the United Nations."

1527From Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu: "Under Operation United Protector, Nato ships, submarines and jets are cutting the flow of arms and mercenaries to Gaddafi's forces. At the same time Nato is actively considering whether to take on a broader role under the UN Security Council resolution. Without prejudging the deliberations, we would expect a decision to take over all operations in the next few days."

1524 French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking on BBC World Have Your Say , says having troops on the ground in Libya would be a huge mistake: "We should respect the sovereignty of Libya. There are many tribes, three regions with different identities, we should not decide for Libya."

1520 On BBC World Have Your Say former Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says: "There was no room for diplomacy as soon as Colonel Gaddafi started to massacre his people. The international community had to draw a line in the sand with the UN Security Council resolution 1973."

1518The BBC's Lina Sinjab in the Syrian capital, Damascus, says she can hear lots of cars hooting their horns in support of President Bashar al-Assad, but there are also reports of opposition protests there, some of which were dispersed by security forces. Our correspondent says she tried to go to Deraa earlier today but was blocked.

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1514 SilmyaSilmya tweets: "Don't these regimes learn that once they kill NOTHING will calm the people anymore except the end of the regime. #syria"

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1513Sozvin from Kamishly, Syria writes: "I am not in Syria now, but my family is there. We don't trust the Government any more, these pledges will not work, because it is too late, we can't hold on any more. I think the change is coming."

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1512Maysoon from Abu Dhabi, UAE, writes: "I am in UAE but all my family is in Syria, in Damascus and Qunitra. I believe that our President Bashar Assad is perfectly honest man and I love him and I support him. I would like to see change happen but I am different - I want him to stay as president. I believe him when he says that he will make the changes he has promised to."

1507Al-Jazeera quotes a witness in Sanamein, near the Syrian town of Deraa, as saying that more than 20 people have been killed after the security forces opened fire there. AP also has reports of police opening fire there. It says people were preparing to march to Deraa, so seems this may be the same entry as mentioned at 1429.

1452 A resident of Deraa tells the Associated Press heavy gunfire can be heard in the city. Several people have been injured, he says, as troops opened fire after anti-government protesters set fire to the statue of former President Hafez al-Assad.

1445 A reminder that former French PM Dominique de Villepin and ex-Nato head Jaap De Hoop Scheffer will debate Libya on the World Have Your Say programme on BBC World News TV at 1500 GMT today, and on BBC World Service radio at 1800 GMT. Submit your questions for them here.

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1443Angelique in Aleppo, Syria, writes: "Here people have been out celebrating. We are happy with the changes announced last night by the president, such as the pay raise for government employees. The streets last night were full of cars tooting their horns. The country is moving forward. So why does the media only show the bad stuff? The violence in the south was mostly guys from Lebanon and Jordan."

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1433Atias in Sanaa, Yemen, writes: "Today's protest was called 'The Friday of Departure'. Everyone was holding red cards, like in football. We chanted our new slogan: 'The people give the president the red card'. The mood was not excitement, but determination - we will stay here and keep protesting. One of the opposition leaders said we should march to the Presidential Palace, but we were afraid we might clash with the pro-government demonstration."

1432Libya: Rebels on the approach to Ajdabiya say there are air strikes against Col Gaddafi's forces. "I am waiting for the jets to finish bombing before going in," Reuters quotes rebel fighter Ahmed al-Misrati as saying.

1429AFP are quoting a human rights activist as saying that several people have been killed after a demonstration heading to Deraa was raked by gunfire. No independent confirmation of this report.

1425Back to Syria. Reuters is reporting heavy gunfire in the square in the southern town of Deraa where thousands of people had gathered. The report says people are fleeing and a statue of former President Hafez al-Assad has been burned.

1420On the diplomatic front, some not very diplomatic sounding comments from Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the Turkish agency Anatolia, he has said that France will be sidelined on Libya once Nato takes control of the operation, and this will be "positive".

1415Two explosions are heard near the eastern Libyan town of Ajdabiya, where a huge plume of smoke is seen rising, AFP reports.

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1409Ibrahim in Sanaa, Yemen, writes: "Just back from the anti-government protest. Today was the largest demonstration yet. The security on the way to the square was unprecedented - they were checking my car very thoroughly. The call from the young people in the square today is the same - we want the president to step down."

1406Thanks for following our rolling coverage. We'll keep posting all the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via e-mail, text or Twitter. We'll publish what we can.

1400So, in Libya neither Colonel Gaddafi's forces nor those trying to topple him seem to be able to break the deadlock. But there could be movement elsewhere in the region. In Yemen, tens of thousands have turned out for rival rallies in the capital, Sanaa, and President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains under severe pressure. And in Syria, protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule appear to be spreading.

1343Reuters are reporting that protests have erupted in the Syrian city of Hama - the scene of an infamous crackdown by the security forces in 1982, under the rule of current President Bashar al-Assad's father.

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1331 Therdiary tweets: "I saw with my own eyes today security men in plain clothes beating peaceful demonstrators with Sticks #Syria #March15 "

1323 The allies have fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Gaddafi forces in the past 24 hours, a US military spokeswoman says, reports Reuters.

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1314 JNovak_Yemen tweets:"So far so good: massive crowds in #Sanaa #Yemen, no violence as negotiations continue for #Saleh exit, govt handover"

1312 Heads up for later: Former French PM Dominique de Villepin and ex-Nato head Jaap De Hoop Scheffer will debate Libya for the Have Your Say programme on BBC World News TV at 1500 GMT today and on BBC World Service radio at 1800 GMT. Submit your questions for them here.

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1306 A Libyan writes: "I believe that none of the pro Gaddafi published comments are spontaneous. I do not know of a single Libyan who supports Gaddafi. This man has killed and imprisoned thousands of Libyans for political opinion. I don't know if my family in Libya are dead or alive."

1302 Sarkozy says Paris and London have been working on a "political and diplomatic solution" to the Libyan crisis, at the two-day EU summit in Brussels.

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1253Hazam from Hull writes: "The problem with Gaddafi supporters is that they carry big guns and they want it their way or no other way. One of their placards says; 'Those who do not love the leader do not deserve to live.' And they mean that"

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1250Hanan in London, tells the BBC: "The fact that no-one is coming forward to defend Gaddafi in interviews and discussion speaks volumes. I am a Libyan and know that the oppression of the last 42 years can no longer be tolerated."

1249 More from Syria: Our correspondent says hundreds took to the streets in Damascus, chanting "peaceful, peaceful, God, Syria, freedom". The protest was attacked by security forces and broken up, with many people reportedly arrested.

1243 In Syria, the BBC's Lina Sinjab says about 100 citizens gathered today in al Qraya town in Sweida governorate, in the south of the country (it's the hometown of Syrian independence leader Sultan Basha al-Atrash). But the would-be demonstrators found a huge crowd of pro-government Bathists had occupied the main square.

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1236 Yemen updates tweets: "#Youth protesters in #Yemen are optimistic that #Saleh will leave soon."

1235 Latest on Libya: AFP news agency has just news-flashed a line about Nicolas Sarkozy saying that Paris and London are preparing some unspecified political initiative on the situation.

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1226 Al Sununu tweets: "Demonstrations in Homs are a big blow to the Asad regime. Lots of Alawites live in the city and most of them are strong loyalists#Syria"

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1120gad8505 from UAE, writes: "It is a pure stall tactics by the Syrian Government. You are about to have a civil war in your country if you do not prosecute, convict and jail the likes of Rustum Ghazali and other corrupt government officials. Syria is on the road of its neighbouring countries, civil unrest and religious and ethnic killings."

1210 Simon Brooks, head of Red Cross operations in eastern Libya, says the organisation is "deeply concerned" about the reports of fighting coming from the city. Direct access to those in need of aid has been refused, he tells Reuters, "despite repeated efforts and dialogue with Tripoli".

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1203 Batal in Benghazi, writes: "How can you enforce a 'no fly zone' by killing Libyans? striking on Gadaffi's forces! Of course they are also Libyans."

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1200 "The Eagle" from Sanaa, Yemen writes: "The feeling in the air is calm and even the flies in the city have taken their holidays today. The demonstrators have mentioned number of times that this Friday will be the peaceful and largest march, and it seems to be getting bigger and larger in numbers. Today there were a number of ordinary people carrying Yemini national flags in their cars, sending the message of solidarity and togetherness."

1156 The African Union has been holding talks in Addis Ababa. Union head Jean Ping has said they are "moving forward in a resolute political process aiming at facilitating dialogue between the Libyan parties on reforms to be launched to eliminate the root causes of the conflict ... that should end with the election of democratic institutions".

1150 AFP is reporting that troops have fired warning shots to prevent Mr Saleh's supporters attacking anti-government activists in Sanaa.

1147 The West has long been concerned that al-Qaeda, which has active cells in Yemen, could exploit the political uncertainty, says our correspondent. But the protesters say President Saleh is exploiting the presence of al-Qaeda to his own advantage.

1145 The situation is extremely unpredictable and potentially volatile, says our correspondent. Some sections of the army have defected, there are checkpoints across the city manned by both sides and many people carry weapons. "A lot of people are fearful that what is now a war of nerves could turn into a real fight."

1139 Our correspondent in the Yemeni capital Sanaa - who we are not naming for security reasons - says the city is very tense and anxious, with a sense of history in the making. Anti-government protesters are calling it a "day of departure," but one student told her it is more a "day of uncertainty".

1137 Mustafa said he was not a rebel but a freedom fighter. "We started our revolution as a peaceful revolution, but we had to carry weapons because of the fierce retaliation of Gaddafi against us. I am a computer engineer, a business man, a graduate from US, I have a company in Dubai," he said. "I left everything for my people and the freedom of my people."

1135 "I am sure we will defeat him," Mustafa told the BBC. "We just need some organisation - we are working on it: we are training our people, we are reorganising, we are liaising with the army. I think we will defeat him in the end, after 42 years it is about time."

1131 A rebel fighter in Ajdabiya told the BBC he believed they would win the fight against Col Gaddafi soon, and that he was grateful for the coalition air strikes as they enabled the rebels to protect their people. "They are air strikes for humanitarian reasons - Gaddafi's brigades are killing people, torturing people," he said.

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1129 Daraa Now tweets: "Massive protests happening now at #AlMarja square #Damascus #Syria and forces trying to stop it!"


1122 Mr Hague says that "if the Gaddafi regime think the will of the international community is faltering they are in for quite a surprise".

1118 UK Foreign Secretary William Hague tells the BBC control of the no-fly zone enforcement should pass to Nato within days. "Bear in mind we only passed the UN resolution a week ago and started military operations very urgently on Saturday in order to save Benghazi from what was about to happen to it. So we have then had to put some of the arrangements of the command of this in place over this week, but that is being put together perfectly well."

1114 We now have a more details on today's growing protests in Yemen. Our correspondent in the country says President Saleh - who has been addressing his supporters - is clearly running out of things he can offer the opposition, but still has plenty of military might and has vowed to protect himself.

1108 UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says there is no confirmed evidence of civilian casualities from coalition air strikes, reports Reuters.

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1102 The Free Yemeni tweets: "Taqyeer square screams right now: "The people want to overthrow the regime, Saleh you are going down tonight and no other night."

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1104 Wissamtarift tweets: "People chanting 'Peaceful Peaceful' #Syria is UPRISING."

1102 Reuters says thousands of people are taking part in a funeral procession in Deraa for people killed in the unrest - they are calling for political freedom.

1058 The BBC's Lina Sinjab is in Syria. She had been trying to reach the southern city of Deraa to report on the unrest there but was stopped by security forces. All the journalists with her had their details taken by police and were sent back to Damascus, she says. We'll bring you what we can from Syria as the situation there develops.

1049 Mr Saleh told his supporters: "We are against firing a single bullet and when we give concessions, this is to ensure there is no bloodshed. We will remain steadfast and challenge them with all power we have."

1045 Rival rallies are being held in the Yemeni capital, in support of or opposed to Mr Saleh.

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1044 Nefermaat tweets: "#Saleh doesn't seem to want to leave ever, not ready for day of departure at all !!! :("

1043 Mr Saleh says he is prepared to offer concessions, Reuters quotes state TV as saying. He is prepared to hand over power but only to"safe hands".

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1042 NoonArabia tweets: "#AliSaleh's speech is harping on Safety, Security and Unity...as if those will be gone if he goes!!!"

1039 Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is addressing crowds in the capital, Sanaa. AFP says he has vowed to "stand firm" in the face of calls for his resignation.

1038 Robin Lustig, presenter of BBC's World Tonight programme, says the various interpretations of two words - "threat" and "necessary" - are central to how we understand the military operation in Libya. " I don't envy the poor lawyers going through the military target lists, deciding line by line, yes, this target is covered by the UN resolution, and no, this target isn't."

1031 Our correspondent says the isolated Libyan leader will still be hoping for diplomatic support within Africa. "Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has spoken out against the international military intervention in Libya. He has called for dialogue instead and will push for this position to be adopted by the African Union."

1030 The BBC's East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the move appears to have been taken more so Uganda could meet is obligations to the UN - which has called for sanctions against the Libyan government - than at putting pressure on Col Gaddafi.

1026 Uganda has announced it is following several other countries and freezing Libyan assets worth some $375m (£232m). The assets are mainly linked to the telecommunications, hotel, banking and oil sectors.

1020 The BBC's Jonathan Beale is in southern Italy, from where coalition jets are taking off for Libya missions. He says the UK has been keen to stress that the missiles it fired near Ajdabiya last night were low-collateral and high-precision. "These are still missiles that can cause civilian casualties, but the Ministry of Defence are making it clear are being very careful about what they are targetting."

1014 "Misrata is besieged now for 35 days," he said. "They don't allow food to come in, they cut the water, they cut everything. And they are killing people every day by tanks and by snipers. So really, we don't see the benefit of the Nato strikes."

1013 Mohammed in Misrata told the BBC that while it was quiet in the city last night the situation there remains dire, with no electricity and a lack of doctors and medical supplies.

1006 The BBC's Ben Brown near Ajdabiya says rebels have been pouring reinforcements into the area. "One commander said if there were more coalition air strikes they could take Ajdabiya today," he says, "but that may be wishful thinking".

1002 Guardian correspondent Martin Chulov tweets: "#Libya rebels not alone in seeking weapons. Jet #Gaddafi sent to Cairo before NFZ carried a general, who implored help from #Egypt's mil."

0952 LibyaNewMedia tweets: "The opposition needs to be much more vocal about what they said before: this is not a struggle against Gaddafi supporters, but Gaddafi only."
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0950 For an overview of the unrest which has swept the Middle East and North Africa in the past few months, costing thousands of lives and dominating the news agenda, see our country-by-country profile of the individual uprisings.

0946 Mr Rajab said all the hospitals in Bahrain had been taken over by the military, so protesters cannot take injured people there."Day-by-day we discover more people are dying among those missing people," he said.

0944 Bahrainian rights activist Nabeel Rajab told BBC's World Today that protesters there will be confronted by troops from across the Gulf region, after they agreed to send military help. "This is the most dangerous thing because we are being faced by machine guns firing from helicopters, tanks, and this is the frightening thing because we don't have any more hospitals."

0939 France's Adm Edouard Guillaud told France-Info radio Libyan airspace is "under control". "We proved it yesterday, because a Libyan plane in the hands of pro-Gaddafi forces, which had just taken off from Misrata in order to bomb Misrata, was destroyed by a French Rafale".

0934 More on the African Union meeting reported by AFP. AU head Jean Ping said the aim of the talks was "to foster an exchange of views in order to take action on the situation in Libya and to seek the ways and means towards a swift solution to the crisis".

0931 The BBC's John Simpson in Tripoli says officials have promised to take journalists to see where coalition bombs have fallen near the capital - they say the attacks have killed civilians.

0927 The AFP news agency says members of the African Union have met in Addis Ababa for talks on Libya with delegates from Libya, the EU, the UN, the Arab League and the Islamic Conference.

0924 There are reports from Yemen that security forces are trying to prevent tens of thousands of anti-government protesters from gathering in the capital Sanaa after Friday prayers. We'll bring you more on this story as it develops.

0920 The BBC's Ben Brown near Ajdabiya says despite last night's strikes the city remains an active frontline, with shelling from pro-Gaddafi forces seen earlier today. The city is surrounded by regime troops, he says, with the population stuck in the middle said to be quickly running out of food, water and electricity.

0915 BBC defence and security correspondent Nick Childs says the RAF Tornado strike on military vehicles near Ajdabiya last night was part of a significant operation involving several fighter jets and repeated attacks. "There have been a number of British strikes but they have tended to be long-range against significant major targets. This is the first of this type in which the Tornadoes have gone after forces on the ground."

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0910 Governess_Rabz tweets: "Libya is one country and #Tripoli is the capital no matter what people are saying! We cannot be divided because we are a family of one."

0909 Our correspondent says the details of who said what to whom in the coalition talks largely goes unnoticed by officials in Tripoli. "But what they do understand is that the organisation which is attacking them is divided in its approach, and that, inevitably, gives them a sense of hope. They have not been smaashed out of ground as they expected to be, and that gives them a feeling they might even survive this operation."

0906 The BBC's World Affairs correspondent John Simpson in Tripoli says the capital saw a relatively quiet night, with coalition bombs landing on the outskirts. The feeling among officials, he says, is that things are not as bad as they might have been.

0904 The West would do well to remember its history of intervention in Libya, writes Mark Mazower in the Guardian. "The majority of Libyans may hate Gaddafi and wish him gone as quickly as possible. But they will remember what we have forgotten - that these planes are not the first, that there is a long history of overwhelming western might being deployed on north African shores."

0858 "Brit Expat" from, Dubai, UAE writes: "For the second week running we have heard occasional helicopters over the central residential areas of Dubai around the time of Friday prayers. Possibly just cautionary to let people know that not all the police have gone to Bahrain. UAE seems happy enough but no-one is taking anything for granted. Some reports indicate an attempt to set up a protest in UAE today."
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0855 The full Hardtalk interview with Jean Ping will be broadcast on BBC World TV today (Friday) at 2130 GMT.

0854 The head of the African Union, Jean Ping, has told BBC's Hardtalk that Africa is still divided of the military action. He said four main points will guide the union's members. "First is an immediate ceasefire. Second that we should allow the humanitarians to go in the field. Three to protect the civilians. Four - which is probably the more important item - we recognise the legitimate aspiration of the Libyan people to democracy, to freedom, to justice, to peace. In that order."

0850 Writing the Washington Post, Liz Sly in Tripoli says Libya's "Brother Leader" Col Gaddafi still appears to have considerable support in the some areas. "How deep that support runs in a populace that has been governed by fear for decades is impossible to tell. But six days into the allied bombardment of Libyan military targets, it is clear that Gaddafi can count on the fierce loyalties of at least a significant segment of the population."

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0846 Jabbar in Sanaa, Yemen, tells the BBC: "We are hoping for a peaceful protest but there could be potential violence if the anti-government demonstrators meet those who support the president near the palace. I hope that President Ali Abdullah Saleh leaves as soon as possible. Since the day I was born, I have seen his picture everywhere. I want to see a new picture - a new face."


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0845 BBC foreign editor Jon Williams tweets: "BBC team in Tripoli report quietest night so far in #Libya capital as focus moves to Misurata & Ajdabiya."

0841 The United Arab Emirates said last night it was sending six F-16 and six Mirage aircraft to join the coalition. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said the participation "will commence in the coming days".

0839 France's Chief of Defence Adm Edouard Guillaud has said he think the international action will be over in weeks, and, he hopes, not months. "There will not be, strictly speaking, a situation of getting bogged down militarily because obviously the solution is political," he said in a radio interview.

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0837 shekerLoussaief tweets: "Good morning #syria #yemen #libya. Another Friday, who is ready to go?"

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0836 Awadh from Mukalla, Yemen, writes: "The government has pulled all the security personnel from the street in Mukalla, so everybody is worried, not knowing what is being planned."

0835 Large protests are also expected to be held elsewhere in the region today, in countries like Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where anti-government unrest has been growing in recent weeks. Activists in Yemen say today's planned rally will be their biggest yet.

0832 "The people of Libya now depend for their protection on the most rudimentary of rebel armies and the weapons of the world's most sophisticated air forces," says our correspondent.

0830 The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Benghazi says the UK's use of Brimstone jets on Ajdabiya overnight - designed to destroy targets without causing collateral damage - was exactly the sort of attack the rebels have been demanding. "Ajdabiya is the first town they will have to take if they are ever to make the long march from Benghazi to Tripoli, and they have been making no impression on Col Gaddafi's better equipped and more professional forces," he says.

0824 The UAE move, said Downing Street, was "evidence of the real and tangible Arab role, building on the leadership the Arab League as a whole showed when they originally led calls for a no-fly zone over Libya". Many Western countries had been reluctant to take action in Libya without Arab support, fearing the impression that would have given in the Arab world.

0822 The UK has welcomed Nato's decision to take control of the no-fly zone operation, and the UAE's announcement that it is contributing aircraft. Downing Street said this demonstrated the "strength and breadth of the coalition".

0820 In response to the question of why the international community has intervened here and not in other areas where people are rising up against their governments, Mr Ban said: "While we have been condemning all other leaders in the other regions where many civilian populations were killed, we have been urging them to exercise maximum restraint and caution to protect the human lives. But in the Libyan case, he has been killing so many people with heavy artillery."

0818 Mr Ban said removing Col Gaddafi was not the aim of the operation but that this could be one effect. "In the course of this implementing Security Council resolution by enforcing no-fly zone, and by taking military action, this may create a certain atmosphere politically, where Libyan people may discuss about their own future, including leader."

0816 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the BBC a few hours ago that the coalition intervention in Libya has been effective. "It has deterred further aggression of military campaign by Libyan authorities and it was able to protect the civilians in Benghazi and some other areas. But we'll have to see. I believe that the superiority of the military power will prevail."

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0813 Patrick from Sliema, Malta, writes: "We sit nervously in neighbouring Malta and hope the fighting in Libya does not effect us. My fear is that a stalemate in Libya will mean a long and protracted conflict with consequences for the whole region. I feel the best way forward to avoid massive loss of life would be a UN-controlled ceasefire followed by a UN-organised referendum in which the Libyan people can freely express how their country should be governed into the future."

0812 At least three explosions hit Tripoli last night. The AFP news agency says one blast was heard in Tajoura, home to military bases. Regime troops also raked the skies of the capital with anti-aircraft fire, as they have been doing for the past few night.

0807 Neil from Doha, Qatar, writes: "The Arab people deserve respect and the confidence to no longer accept living under such awful dictators. I hope the newly found confidence in the people continues to spread, and I hope that the West provides consistent support to all Arab nations, regardless of old ties to the West, and that we go home when we are told to do so."
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0805 UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox says British Tornado jets took part in armed reconnaissance missions over Libya last night. "The Tornado aircraft launched a number of guided Brimstone missiles at Libyan armoured vehicles which were threatening the civilian population of Ajdabiya," he said."

0804 Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said other aspects of the operation will remain in coalition hands for now. The alliance could take on more responsibility, he said, "but that decision has not been reached yet".

0803 The US has been leading the operation to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya so far, but after many days of disagreement and confusion, Nato has agreed to take over the responsibility, possibly as early as this weekend.

0800Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the Libya crisis. 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 e-mail, text or Twitter. We'll publish what we can.




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