Page last updated at 22:02 GMT, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 23:02 UK

Libya and Mid-East crisis as it happened: Tuesday

  • An international conference on Libya, meeting in London, agrees that Col Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy. Member states agree to set up a contact group to help decide Libya's political future
  • Pro-Gaddafi forces have launched a new offensive in eastern Libya, driving rebels from the recently captured towns of Bin Jawad and Ras Lanuf
  • There are reports of further shelling in the western city of Misrata, which government forces are battling to regain from the rebels
  • In Syria, President Bashar Assad has accepted the resignation of the cabinet as he prepares his response to a wave of violent political unrest
  • You can also follow developments on BBC Arabic
  • All times BST. Live page reporters: Stephanie Holmes, Alexandra Fouché, Michael Hirst, David Walker and David Gritten

2257We're now wrapping up our live updates on Libya and the Middle East for the day. Thanks for following our rolling coverage. You can continue to get all the latest news developments via the front page of the BBC News website.

2251Jonathan Rugman of Channel 4 News blogs about life for a foreign journalist in Tripoli.

2240The Mediterranean island of Malta is growing increasingly concerned about migrants fleeing unrest in North Africa, as nearly 300 arrived by boat from Libya, local media reports. Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg says the international community must not ignore illegal immigration caused by the conflict.

2230Two US senators who pushed for US military action in Libya - Democrat John Kerry and Republican John McCain - have said they don't think Washington should intervene militarily in Syria - at least not now.

2222 The BBC's John Simpson in Tripoli has talked to someone close to Col Gaddafi who says the Libyan leader could live with political and military stalemate that leaves him in control of half the country.

2215 FreeLibya tweets: "Confirmed: There is a fierce battle between Gaddafi forces and revolutionaries in Az-Zawaabi district of Misratah right now"

2210 Two explosions have shaken the Aziziyah Gate area of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Al-Arabiya reports.

2200 Libyan state TV is showing pictures of more pro-Gaddafi supporters people joining a sit-in at his base in Tripoli, shouting slogans and waving pictures of the Libyan leader, BBC Monitoring reports.

2145 Adel Darwish, political editor of Middle East Magazine, tells the BBC that Egypt could legally arm the Libyan rebels to prevent a failing state on its border. But, he adds, Egypt was conspicuous by its absence at the London conference.

2140 Free Libya Now tweets: "#Zintan is totally free, but is surrounded from the north and south. #Gaddafi militias 5km north of the city, we are ready to fight them."

2130 Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini tells CNN he hopes African countries will come forward to offer Col Gaddafi exile. However, he said exile for the Libyan leader would not necessarily mean immunity from possible prosecution.

2115 Ben Wedeman of CNN tweets: "Eyewitness says residents of al-brega fleeing east after Libyan army regains control of ras lanuf. #Libya"

2108Back now to events in Syria: President Assad's repeated failures to make scheduled TV appearances may be due to efforts by hardliners - led by his brother Maher - to sideline him, Adrian Blomfield writes in The Telegraph.

2101 LibyaNewMedia tweets: "According to reports, Zintan has been under heavy attack today. Let's hope that the coalition jets will protect them."

2058 UK-based think-tank Quilliam, a group that studies Islamists, says although Libya's rebels are not the anti-Western militants Col Gaddafi says they are, turmoil in the country could help al-Qaeda get a foothold.

2050 BBC Foreign Editor Jon Williams tweets: "Clock ticking - told current coalition military op in #Libya may only have "3 or 4 more days" to run "as is". Pressure to "wind down" focus."

2045 Regional analyst Prof Fawaz Gerges tells the BBC that arming the rebels would be like "pouring gasoline on the fire". He adds: "The last 10 days have shown very clearly that there is no decisive military option. Libya is a much more divided country than most of us had imagined."

2036 French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said Col Gaddafi's actions against Libyan civilians mean he is "out of the running" as far as a future Libya is concerned. Mr Juppe's remarks, made in London, were broadcast on France 2 TV.

2025 Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute thinktank tells the BBC that the London conference failed in at least one of its objectives - to agree on what terms Nato will stop bombing Libya. Will they accept Col Gaddafi staying in power or not?

2020 Salwinder tweets: "Can someone please give the rebels some radio communications to allow at least some basic command and control?"

2010 UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has told the BBC he doubts that arming the rebels would be legal. "There is an arms embargo in place which states are observing," he said. "We want to ensure that everything that is done in relation to this intervention is legal. That is why we are sticking so closely to the terms of the UN resolution."

2004 ShababLibya tweets: "Some people asking: here in the liberated parts the situation is very good in terms of electricity, food & water etc, #Libya"

2000 Coalition forces have launched 22 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flown 115 strike sorties in the past 24 hours, the Pentagon has announced.

1958 Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner has denounced coalition raids in Libya, saying: "When you consider that these so-called civilised countries are trying to solve problems by dropping bombs, it makes me proud to be South American." She is hosting a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

1950 Jonathan Rugman of Channel 4 News tweets: "In a reversal of Obeidi story, a woman in same hotel restaurant is chanting PRO-Gaddafi slogans now - the minders haven't removed HER."

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1946 Adam Aljazairi, in the US writes: "I would advise the coalition to watch the Libyan Algerian border. It looks like the Algerian military might be helping Gaddafi by supplying arms, ammunitions and helping sub-Saharan mercenaries cross over to help the regime in Tripoli. The coalition should pressure Algeria to freeze Gaddafi's and his son's investments in Algeria."

1940Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague mentioned that the rebel Libyan Interim Transitional National Council had published its "vision of a democratic Libya". The document is now available on the council's website . It pledges to lead Libya towards a "civil society that recognises intellectual and political pluralism and allows for the peaceful transfer of power through legal institutions and ballot boxes".

1934More from the Libya conference in London: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that a UN special envoy would visit Tripoli soon to urge Col Gaddafi to implement a real ceasefire, and discuss with him the option of leaving the country. "I'm not sure that we know exactly when we will get to any change in attitude by Gaddafi and those around him," she said. "As you know there is a lot of reaching out that is occurring, a lot of conversations that are going on, and as the Arab League has said it is also obvious to everyone that Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead."

1930A doctor in the western Libyan city of Misrata has told the AFP news agency that 142 people have been killed and 1,400 wounded there since 18 March. Earlier, rebels said tanks and troops loyal to Col Gaddafi moved through the streets of Libya's third largest city, firing shells. They warned of a "massacre" ahead.

1926 Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweets: "Leaving London. Broad support for broad Libya political strategy. Strong determination to get Gaddafi out and freedom in."

1923 Rob T tweets: "Libya rebels a mixed bag. Hope they unite in opposing indefinite rule of any kind. Regrettable if they simply replace Gaddafi."

1919As Bridget Kendall mentioned, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters in London: "A consensus has been reached, participants at the meeting unanimously said that Gaddafi must leave the country. Beyond that, it depends on the country which may offer to welcome Gaddafi. There is as yet no formal proposal. No country has formulated such a plan, even the African countries which may be ready to make one."

1915Our correspondent adds: "But it may turn out what was most important about this conference were the conversations on the fringes. Some countries have been openly talking about an exit strategy to offer Col Gaddafi a route to exile. The Italians said they thought the African Union, not represented here, might be best placed to persuade him. The UN secretary general said he was sending his special UN envoy back to Tripoli in search of a peaceful settlement. There will be a new contact group with a rotating chairmanship to guide political leadership. Whether those ideas bear fruit of course in the end depends on the Libyan leader in Tripoli. If he refuses to call a meaningful ceasefire, let alone discuss a possible route out of Libya for himself, then much of this frantic diplomacy will have to remain on hold."

1913BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says there was an "atmosphere of restrained anxiety" at the conference on Libya in London: "The fact quite so many busy foreign ministers and other top officials changed their schedules to fly to London at short notice shows just how concerned they were," she says. "The unease, it seems, is not only among those countries reluctant to get involved in air strikes. Even countries like France and Britain, who have led the mission, seem worried in case Col Gaddafi's forces dig themselves in shielded by civilians from air strikes and become almost impossible to dislodge. William Hague's statement, which concluded the conference, did not reveal what plans there might be to deal with that problem. It did suggest there was broad agreement that the Gaddafi regime had lost legitimacy and the Libyan leader needed to be held accountable. It gave greater prominence to the opposition leadership in Benghazi - the Interim transitional National Council - welcoming a document they have produced for a future democratic Libya and calling on them, tribal leaders and others to start now to plan for a post Gaddafi future."

1908The UK Chief of Defence Staff's Strategic Communication Officer, Maj-Gen John Lorimer, says: "Earlier this morning, as part of our ongoing support to protecting the civilians of Libya in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 1973, two Tornado GR4 aircraft operating out of Gioia del Colle conducted armed reconnaissance and combat air patrols over Libya. During the mission near Misrata, one Libyan armoured fighting vehicle and two artillery pieces were engaged with Brimstone missiles. Initial reports indicate that the engagements were successful. Two Typhoon missions have been flown providing combat air patrols. The aircraft returned to Gioia del Colle without expending munitions."

1905The US defence department says the military intervention in Libya has cost about $550m so far. Sixty percent has gone on bombs and missiles. Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr Kathleen Kesler said the figure represented only the added cost to the department, beyond what it would have spent deploying the troops and ships elsewhere.

1858Following the air and missile strikes in Tripoli, a caption on Libyan state TV quoted a military source as saying: "Military and civilian locations were bombed in Tripoli a while ago by the crusader colonial aggression, bearing in mind that the cost of each rocket and bomb is paid for by Qatar and the [United Arab] Emirates." The New York Times points out that the two Gulf states support the military intervention in Libya.

1854Back to the situation on the ground in Libya: Two explosions have rocked the area close to Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, an AFP news agency correspondent says. Meanwhile, seven explosions have also shaken the eastern suburb of Tajoura. A resident told AFP that planes fired missiles at a military radar installation, while another reported seeing flames and a column of smoke afterwards.

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1847Josh Rowe, in Sydney writes: "This is clearly a failed revolution, not because the aspirations are necessarily inappropriate, but because it just doesn't have enough local support. If it were not for Western intervention, it would already be over."

1844Mrs Clinton also said that the London conference had discussed "non-lethal assistance" for the rebels. "We discussed ways of trying to enable the Transitional National Council to meet a lot of their financial needs and how we could do that through the international community, given the challenges that sanctions pose, but recognising that they obviously are going to need funds to keep themselves going."

1839If you would like to learn more, the BBC News website has published interesting profiles of the key figures in the rebel Interim Transitional National Council , including its chairman, Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, and the two men responsible for foreign affairs, Mahmoud Jibril and Ali Issawi.

1836Mrs Clinton also said that everything the United States had learned so far about the rebel Transitional National Council seemed positive. "Their commitment to democracy and to a very robust engagement with people from across the spectrum of Libyans is, I think, appropriate," she added. "We do not have any specific information about specific individuals from any organisation who are part of this, but of course we're still getting to know those who are leading the transitional national council and that will be a process that continues."

1834US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested during her news conference in London that it would be legal to arm the Libyan rebels. "It is our interpretation that [UN Security Council resolution] 1973 amended or overrode the absolute prohibition on arms to anyone in Libya, so that there could be a legitimate transfer of arms if a country should choose to do that," she said, according to the Press Association.

1829French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also urged the Syrian government to initiate reforms and begin dialogue with its people. He condemned the violent repression of pro-democracy demonstrations, though added: "We're not at the stage of studying sanctions or a UN Security Council resolution."

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1825Mahdi, in Benghazi writes: "Please bring peace to Libya as soon as possible. Our kids are now losing their school year which started last September and should finish by the end of June. The rebels cannot defeat Gaddafi regime without coalition intervention. We want peace not war, fighting will not resolve the Libyan crisis. Negotiation will do, but all parties must be heard."

1824Mr Juppe said there was no future for Col Gaddafi in Libya, but that it was for the Libyan people to decide his fate.

1822France's Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, has meanwhile said it is ready to discuss arming the Libyan rebels. "I remind you it is not part of the UN resolution, which France sticks too, but we are ready to discuss it with our partners," he told reporters in London.

1817She concludes by saying: "We came to London to speak with one voice in support of a transition that leads to a brighter future for the Libyan people. I am very pleased with the progress that has been made."

1815Mrs Clinton adds that in meetings with Arab representatives, she expressed her "strong condemnation of the Syrian government's brutal repression of demonstrators, in particular the violence and killing of civilians by the security forces".

1811Mrs Clinton says: "Today's conference is taking place at a moment of transition, as Nato takes over as leader of the coalition mission, a mission in which the United States will continue to play an active supporting role. Some of our coalition partners announced additional support and contributions today, which we welcomed."

1808Next up is the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She says she began the day by meeting representatives of the Libyan rebel Interim Transitional National Council in London. "I reiterated the support of the United States on behalf of President Obama for the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people, and our commitment to helping them achieve those aspirations," she adds.

1805Sheikh Hamad says that although there has been a modest Arab contribution to the coalition military operation, the wider Arab world supports it: "It's a sad moment, but with hope in the future. A sad moment of what we are seeing in Libya, a sad moment that we see that we need to try to intervene in a country which belonged to the Arabs. But we as Arabs and the Arab League ask the international community to participate to try not to let the Libyan people be on their own facing Gaddafi and his group... They are using all the heavy machinery to kill the protesters and their own people."

1801Sitting next to Mr Hague, Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad Jassem Al Thani, tells the news conference: "We urge Gaddafi and his people to leave. I think this is the only solution to sort this problem as soon as possible. Right now we don't see any indication of that. But this hope which we offer now might not be on the table after a few days. I'm not warning anybody here, but I am trying to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible."

1755"We agreed that it is not for any of the participants here today to choose the government of Libya: only the Libyan people can do that. But we agreed that Gaddafi and his regime have completely lost legitimacy and will be held accountable for their actions. We recognised the needs for all Libyans, including the Interim Transitional National Council, tribal leaders and others, to come together to begin an inclusive political process, and we call on the international community to support this process, working closely with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative Abdul Ilah Mohammed al-Khatib," Mr Hague says.

1753He adds: "Participants here today have reaffirmed that very clear conditions must be met under the UN Security Council resolution, including the establishment of an immediate ceasefire, a halt to all attacks on civilians and full humanitarian access to those in need. We agreed to continue their efforts until all those conditions are fulfilled. The Libyan regime will be judged by its actions and not its words."

1749Mr Hague lists the key conclusions of the conference: "Participants today have reaffirmed the importance of full and swift implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions, and their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya. We have agreed to consider pursuing, in the UN and regional organisations, additional sanctions on individuals and entities associated with the regime. Participants here today are implementing these measures as a clear message to Gaddafi that he cannot attack civilians with impunity."

1745"This comes at a time as when the forces of the Gaddafi regime continue to shell Libyan civilians in Misrata, Zintan and Rejban in an indiscriminate and brutal manner, underlining why are efforts to protect Libyan citizens must and will continue."

1744He adds: "Second, Libya's Interim Transitional National Council have launched here in London their vision for a future Libya that is free, democratic and unified. We have said throughout that we want the Libyan people to be in the lead in determining their future, and today was a significant milestone in that process."

1742Mr Hague says: "We have certainly widened and deepened the coalition, with a new pledge of support to Nato operations from Sweden, a growing number of countries committed to implementing the UN resolutions on Libya, and agreement on a new Contact Group on Libya."

1740UK Foreign Secretary William Hague tells a news conference: "This has been a very important day for the future of Libya, and we have seen two key developments today." First, foreign ministers and leaders from more than 40 countries and organisations attended the conference in London, he says.

1736The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has now published the full statement on its website .

1733Representatives at the conference also "reaffirmed their unified support for this course of action through making effective and sustained contributions to military operations until the international community's goals are secured", it added.

1732The statement said the military intervention in Libya had so far been "successful in protecting countless civilians from Gaddafi's forces and in effectively wiping out Gaddafi's air capability".

1731The conference also agreed the creation of the "Libya Contact Group" to provide leadership to co-ordinate international support for the people of Libya. The new group's first meeting will be chaired by Qatar "as soon as possible".

1730More on the agreements reached by the countries and institutions which attended the Libya Conference in London: A statement released by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, in his role as chairman of the conference, said that participants reaffirmed their commitment to full and swift implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya and to continuing military action to enforce them.

1728The Jordanian pro-democracy protest group, the 24 March Movement, has announced that another demonstration calling for "unity and reform" will be held on Friday in central Amman, the Ammon news website reports. Last Friday, a man died after clashes with security forces outside the interior ministry. The victim's family said he was beaten by police, a claim the government denied.

1723 LibyanYouthMovement tweets: "So much drama here in London outside the Libyan conference. #feb17 #Libya"

1720 NohaZayed tweets: "People in Zintan are very concerned about Gaddafi troops approaching from the east."

1718 Diplomats at the international conference on Libya in London have agreed to set up a "contact group" to co-ordinate international action and its next meeting will be in Qatar, AFP reports.

1707 The first explosion struck Tripoli at around 1630 GMT, reports say, followed by a second blast about three minutes later. Witnesses say coalition aircraft had been seen over the capital earlier in the afternoon.

1659 Following the rebels' apparent retreat from Bin Jawad, the BBC's Ben Brown in Ajdabiya points out that the Pentagon had warned that rebels were too ill-equipped and poorly trained to make substantial military advances.

1652 The AFP correspondent says the explosions appeared close to Col Gaddafi's tightly-guarded residence in Tripoli.

1650 An AFP correspondent in Tripoli is also reporting "loud blasts" in the city. The explosions come earlier in the evening than the usual coalition air strikes, correspondents say.

1644 Reuters also now reporting that three loud explosions have been heard in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

1642 Jonathan Rugman of Channel 4 News tweets: "2 loud explosions heard in Tripoli - rather earlier than usual air strike attacks."

1639 Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says parliament will be asked to contribute eight Gripen fighter jets to the Libya operation, but insisted they would not be involved in ground strikes. The government's proposal will be put to the Riksdag on Friday.

1631 The amount of Islamic phraseology and history invoked by the rebels is raising questions about the sway of Islamism in Libya's rebellion, BBC Monitoring says. However, evidence suggests that the use of religious language reflects a society that has not been influenced by secular trends, it adds.

1622 Defence expert Dr John Gearson, of Kings College London, tells the BBC that although sending arms to the Libyan rebels might be "superficially attractive", those receiving them will need to be trained how to use them.

1610 The French ambassador appointed to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi has been named as Antoine Sivan, a 53-year-old Arabic-speaking diplomat, AFP news agency reports, quoting a senior official source. Mr Sivan has held several posts in the region including that of French ambassador to Qatar.

1606 Back now to Admiral James Stavridis's testimony to the US Senate: He says Nato has no representative on the ground in Libya to work with rebel forces fighting Col Gaddafi's regime.

1601For anyone who is interested, David Cameron's opening speech in full is now available on the 10 Downing Street website.

1558 Mahmud Shammam, head of media relations for the Interim National Council, tells a press conference: "What we want is to continue our peaceful revolution. We would like to go... to Tripoli and demonstrate there. Of course we are looking for a political process - that is why we are here [in London]. One thing we are sure about is we are not going to allow Gaddafi or his family to be part of this process."

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1555CK, in Tripoli writes: "Gaddafi will die like Saddam. African leaders are all the same. They stay in power at the expense of the poor civilian population. I would love to be involved in Libya's fight for regime change. Justice shall prevail."

1549 More now on that testimony to the US Senate by Admiral James Stavridis: He says intelligence on the rebel forces in Libya shows "flickers" of al-Qaeda or Hezbollah presence, but there is still no clear picture of the emerging Libyan opposition.

1545 Guma el-Gamaty, UK co-ordinator for Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC) tells a press conference in London that they are very grateful to the international community but the liberation of Libya is the responsibility of the Libyan people.

1537 Back now to events in Syria: President Assad will address parliament on Wednesday, a high-ranking official has told AFP news agency. There is no confirmation of that yet.

1534 US Admiral James Stavridis, Nato's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, tells the US Senate that Col Gaddafi is likely to step down if the international coalition applies a full range of military pressure on him.

1523 ShababLibya tweets: "Singing the Libyan anthem in London is a great feeling. #libya #feb17."

1518Libyan state TV has shown what it says is live footage of Khamis Gaddafi - son of the Libyan leader - which it says disproves media reports that he had been killed. You can see a still from the footage in our new Libya gallery.

1510 Libya's rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) says the US has appointed an official envoy to the Benghazi-based "interim administration", Al-Jazeera reports. There is no independent confirmation of that report.

1502 Former US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley tweets: "For #Assad, the dilemma is that meaningful sharing of power exposes the narrow basis of his Alawite government in Sunni-majority #Syria."

1458 The BBC's Nick Springate in Libya says hundreds of cars carrying rebel fighters are heading east, away from Bin Jawad in the direction of Ras Lanuf.

1451 ShababLibya tweets: "There is no talk of division here in Libya, there is only talk of the day they will rid Libya of Gaddafi #Libya #Feb17 #gaddaficrimes"

1448 France is to send an "ambassador" to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, a French official tells AFP news agency. The senior diplomat - an Arabic speaker - will enter Libya from Egypt, the official said.

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1444Back now to events in Misrata where a doctor tells the BBC: "There is strong bombing from the east side of the city. Gaddafi's forces are using tanks and heavy guns. Oh my god, there are strong explosions inside the city and towards the seaport. Judging from what I hear, I think they're using tanks and mortars."

1441 NohaZayed tweets: "Syrian Government submits it resignation. We've seen this film before. Syrians pls carry on with your fight for freedom #syria"

1439 US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice says Washington has not ruled out arming Libya's rebels. "Over the long term, as the [US] president said, there are other things at our disposal that perhaps will assist in speeding Gaddafi's exit," she told CBS's The Early Show.

1433 The BBC's Jon Willliams tweets: "#Syrian government resigns - Assad expected to lift emergency laws. Maybe now foreign reporters will be allowed in? Then again... "

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1430Salem in Tripoli writes: "I think the Europeans and the Americans are after Libyan oil and nothing else. They see most of the Libyan people - at least the western part of the country which makes up more than 2/3 of the Libyan population - are against foreign intervention. So stay out of Libya and let the people decide what they want. Your rockets and plans are terrorising women and children all over Libya and killing innocent people in the middle of the night. Is that protecting civilians?"

1427 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells the international conference on Libya being held in London that military action by coalition forces will continue until Col Gaddafi complies with UN resolutions.

1428 UK Prime Minister David Cameron has called for the creation of a "contact group" to provide sustained political support for Libya. "We are all here united in one purpose and that is to help the Libyan people in their hour of need," he told the international conference on Libya.

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1418Vijayan Kilikolloor in India writes: "Everyone including Gaddafi himself knew his future. He will reap what he has sown. No dictator can suppress a new generation who are aware of modern science, technology and modern method of administration. Age-old ideals, pride and selfish motives cannot gain respect from the people."

1413 ChangeInLibya tweets: "Today marks the 42nd day of this revolution. #libya #feb17 "

1411 Speaking in London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron tells the international conference on Libya that military action saved Benghazi from a massacre and gave freedom a chance in Libya. But he said Misrata was still suffering "murderous attacks" from Col Gaddafi's forces.

1410 Rebels in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata say they are fending off fresh attacks. "Gaddafi's forces tried this morning to get into Misrata through the western gate but the youths repelled them," a spokesman called Sami tells Reuters by telephone.

1403 Jim Clancy of CNN tweets: "The city of Misrata, Libya, is reported under siege with pro-Gaddafi forces moving in from several fronts. Coalition warplanes circling."

1400 Back now to Syria: Opposition figure Maamoun al-Homsi, in exile in Canada, tells Reuters that President Assad will scrap hated emergency laws to ease unrest, but may replace them with equally harsh legislation couched as "anti-terrorist measures".

1353 ShababLibya tweets: "There are 100s of snipers on rooftops in Tripoli st, Misrata #Libya#Feb17"

1350 President Assad is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours and may announce the abolishment of emergency laws and other harsh restrictions, analysts say.

1345 President Assad accepted the cabinet's resignation following a meeting, Syrian state TV says. Correspondents say the move is the latest concession aimed at appeasing more than a week of mass protests.

1341 Syrian state TV is reporting that the cabinet has resigned. Details to follow as we get them.

1338 The Ugandan government has seized control of Libya's majority stake in Uganda Telecom to comply with UN sanctions, technology minister Aggrey Awori tells Reuters.

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1335Omar in Benghazi tells the BBC: "I come from the UK but I could not sit at home and watch my people die and fight alone. I plan to move between Benghazi and the safe areas in the west up to about Ras Lanuf area. I came here to document what is happening in English so that the world can see. I came so the world can see what is going on through a Libyan's eyes."

1333 Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times tweets: "Libya claims #EmanalObeidy is "sued" over rape accusation - C'mon, Qaddafi, let us interview her."

1319 Nato will now take control of the Libya operation at 0600 GMT on Thursday - 24 hours later than first announced, AFP reports.

1313 Nato is to delay its takeover of the Libya operation until Thursday, AFP quotes an unnamed diplomat as saying. More details to follow.

1307 Libya's rebel Interim National Council outlining its vision for a post-Gaddafi system.

1301 While the BBC cannot confirm this, Karl Stagno-Navarra tweets: "#Libya foreign Minister Mousa Kousa spotted with family, luggages in #Tunisia"

1257 This just in from the BBC's Nick Springate in Bin Jawad, who says the rebels are now back in control of the key town, although fighting is continuing to its west.

1254 From the London conference on Libya, our chief political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, tweets: "Ban Ki-moon here - only leader to stop and wave for the cameras! #libyaconf"

1251 Earlier, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told the BBC that the international community had to take responsibility for what happened to Libya once the military operations were over. "It's critical that we envisage the political process for Libya," he told The World Today programme. "We are now implementing the Security Council resolution with military means to protect civilians. We also need to keep a sharp eye on all the provisions of that resolution, namely a political solution to Libya's crisis and also a firm response to the humanitarian needs of Libya."

The New York Times
tweets: "More #Libya: Tracking the battles, day by day. Photo gallery of conflict:"

1245 Further west, ships from the US Sixth Fleet attacked three Libyan ships that had been firing indiscriminately at merchant ships in the port of Misrata, 210km east of Tripoli, US officials said. Tanks and troops loyal to Col Gaddafi had swept through the city firing shells as they attacked, AFP reported rebels as saying.

1241 Thanks for following the latest updates from the crisis in Libya and unrest in the wider Middle east with the BBC. If you've just joined us, here's the latest from our correspondent Nick Springate who is on what appears to be the new front line in Bin Jawad, some 150km east of Col Gaddafi's birthplace, Sirte: Rebels have been forced out of the small town by pro-Gaddafi forces firing artillery from its west, our correspodent says. The rebels are returning fire over the town with Katyusha rockets.

1235 aalmasri tweets: "We are perfectly aware of the west's double standards & ulterior motives. Still, we appreciate its involvement in saving libyans. #libya"

1232 The US embassy in London tweets: "Secretary #Clinton is meeting Prime Minister #Cameron at Number 10 #LibyaConf #Libya"

1223 Joseph Zammit, in Malta, tweets: "Medical aid from #Malta to leave Valletta harbor later today for #Misurata hospital #Libya #NFZ @ChangeInLibya @ShababLibya"

1220 The BBC's Tim Willcox tweets: "Travelling to Libya via Cairo tonight - will tweet when possible - not sure of phone coverage #Libya #bbc"

1217 Gaddafi forces sweep through Misrata, according to Libyan rebels, AFP reports.

1215 The US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice tells US TV network ABC that the US has not ruled out arming the Libyan rebels. She also says the US is looking for "actions" by those who surround Col Gaddafi. She adds there is no evidence Col Gaddafi is prepared to leave power.

1209 More from Amnesty International's Nicolas Berger, who says there is a climate of heightened fear in Libya because of Col Gaddafi's past human rights record: "There is no surprise in what he is doing. This is heightened again so we are very concerned about the people. The families are extremely concerned and scared because they know what was the case in Libya on an ongoing basis."

Activist group
tweets: "BREAKING: Fierce fighting in Bin Jawad right now. Katyusha rockets and artillery fire exchanged - #Libya -"

The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg
tweets: "Clinton going in to Downing Street with Hague - now at Lancaster house - Rasmussen already here"

1201 UN1973 tweets: "If #Gaddafi has supporters in #Libya, why aren't there any supporting tweeps? #lib17 #libya"

1200 More on the missing Libyans from Amnesty International (0701 entry); the group's director, Nicolas Berger, says his organisation has documented evidence of more than 30 people who had gone missing since the uprising began: "We've been in Libya on the ground without interruption since the 26th of February and we've documented enforced disappearances, people being taken away. They fall mainly into three groups: one is just a crackdown in February where writers, pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders were taken. We know some of them have been tortured. They have been taken away. We think they are all in Tripoli but nobody knows their whereabouts."

1155 The BBC's Nick Springate in Bin Jawad reports that the town has effectively become the front line. He can see the opposition on the eastern side of the town and Gaddafi forces on the western side. They are firing at each other, using Katyusha rockets and artillery. He says he can see about 500 men and at least 100 vehicles on the rebel side. He says no-one is in control of Bin Jawad at the moment.

1153 In London, the Libyan interim council has pledged free and fair elections after Gaddafi in a statement, Reuters reports.

1151 UK Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander says it is right that Libyans should decide their country's future: "The obligation of the international community in terms of this military effort is to uphold the Security Council resolution, no more and no less. Ultimately, the judgement as to the best future for Gaddafi's leadership rests with the Libyan people. And I think we should all be clear, in order to deepen and broaden that international coalition, that the job that we are working towards, the international Security Council resolution's enforcement, is about the protection of the Libyan people, not a choice about Libya's future political leadership," he told the BBC.

1146The BBC's Carole Walker in London reports the UK Cabinet has discussed the latest developments concerning Libya and that UK PM David Cameron will meet Mahmoud Jabril, special envoy for Libya's Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC), later on Tuesday. The PM's spokesman said although ITNC members were not taking part in today's conference, their views would be reflected at the meeting. He said: "We are not discussing a solution and how to impose it on the Libyan people, we are discussing how the international community can best support the process of transition."

1140 Activist group the Libyan Youth Movement tweets: "Traveled to Ajdabiya so many horror stories of what happened there by Gaddafi forces too painful to tweet #Libya #Feb17"

1137 Some of the migrants from Libya have already been transferred to transit camps in southern Italy. But Italian television has shown many of them climbing over fences to escape. The Italian government says most of those arriving are not fleeing persecution, but are just taking advantage of the turmoil in north Africa to get into the EU, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome. The government says it is considering re-introducing its controversial policy of sending the migrants back, to avoid what it calls a humanitarian disaster.

1132 The Italian government is sending six ships to take the migrants on the island of Lampedusa to transit camps on the mainland. The authorities on the island say they're struggling to cope (1009 entry: "Once the boats have taken away all the migrants on the island [of Lampedusa] not a single person more should be allowed to come ashore," Raffaele Lombardo, the president of Sicily says, according to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

1124 Elsewhere in the region, Syrian TV has been carrying live special coverage of demonstrations supporting President Bashar al-Assad in various Syrian cities, BBC Monitoring reports. The Syrian Space Channel Television shows crowds of people in Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Hims and Hamah chanting slogans such as: "God, Syria, and Bashar only" and "We will sacrifice our lives and blood for you, Bashar".

1114 The BBC's John Simpson in Tripoli says he has spoken to a source close to Col Gaddafi and asked him if the Libyan leader would relinquish power easily: "He [that person] reinforced all these views that he [Col Gaddafi] isn't going to go anywhere unless he is absolutely forced out... To offer him a bolt-hole is something he would not be interested in - unless he was clear there was no alternative."

1110 NewsInLibya tweets: "Turkey says it will take over #Benghazi airport: Istanbul - Turkey will be taking over... #News #NewsinLibya #Libya"

1104 The former UK ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles, says the diplomatic situation is becoming more difficult as advances by the rebels in Libya stall: "Don't forget they're at the end of very long supply chains. It must be great fun to drive down that coast road with the wind behind you, so to speak," he told the BBC. "When you get to the other end and you find people are shooting at you, you realise you're running out of petrol and ammunition and you've got 300 miles to make your way back, it's not so comfortable. So it's really rather likely that there will be military deadlock and then we'll be stuck, because we do not have international support for regime change."

1059 The Peace Analyst tweets: "#Libya needs to be compared to Kosovo and Rwanda not Iraq and Afghanistan. Libyan people asked for UN help & intervention, Iraqis did not."

1054 Pro-Gaddafi forces have attacked rebel fighters with a hail of machinegun and rocket fire, prompting a panicked, chaotic retreat to the town of Bin Jawad, a Reuters witness has said. Rebels jumped behind sand dunes to fire back, but they gave up after a few minutes, jumped into their pick-up trucks and sped off down the road to Bin Jawad. Shells landed near the road as they retreated.

1049 An estimated 350,000 people have fled Libya into Egypt and Tunisia, IRC UK says. The vast majority of those fleeing have been foreign workers. Only about 3,000 are Libyan nationals. There are reports of tens of thousands of internally displaced people as a result of intense fighting in urban areas, and their situation remains unclear.

1047 The International Rescue Committee is urging participants attending the London conference to put the issue of humanitarian access "firmly on the table": "We're gravely concerned about the conditions of civilians in areas of heavy fighting," says Carolyn Makinson, chief executive of IRC UK. "The situation could easily deteriorate into a humanitarian emergency."

1043 More on the US attack in Misrata: The action was against the Libyan coastguard vessel Vittoria and two smaller craft. The Vittoria was beached. One of the smaller craft was destroyed and the other abandoned, the US Sixth Fleet said in a statement.

1038 US forces have attacked three Libyan ships, including a coastguard vessel, to stop them firing indiscriminately at merchant ships in the port of Misrata, US military officials have said, Reuters reports.

1032 Alwaddani tweets: "#Libya is not Korea, There Is Not Going To Be A West Libya, and A East Libya. Libya Is One, Libya Is United, Libya Shall Be Free. #feb17"

1029Seven out of 10 Britons think coalition forces enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya could get sucked into another Iraq-style conflict, according to a UK poll reported by Reuters.

1024The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has met Mahmoud Jabril, Special Envoy for Libya's Interim Transitional National Council to discuss the situation in Libya. "We considered how best the UK as well as other attendees at today's conference can best support the Libyan people, and I asked for Mr Jabril's assessment of the humanitarian needs in Libya and priorities for international assistance," Mr Hague said after the meeting.

1019The UK's Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, tells the BBC that Col Gaddafi must recognise there is no future for him in terrorising his population. But, he says, the ultimate judgement as to the best future for Gaddafi's leadership rests with the Libyan people.

1012Libya's state news agency, Jana, is reporting that Col Gaddafi's son, Khamis Gaddafi arrived at his father's Tripoli compound late Monday evening, according to BBC Monitoring.

1009Around 1,000 refugees from Libya and Tunisia arrived on several boats on the Italian islands of Sicily and Lampedusa this morning, the Italian coast guard says, according to AFP. Lampedusa has drawn around 20,000 immigrants in recent weeks.

1004The BBC's John Simpson, in Tripoli, says that he thinks Col Gaddafi will be finding it difficult to understand what has happened - only five years ago he was assured by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that he was a member of the international community and now that community seems determined to get rid of him.

0957Commentators question President Obama's speech explaining US intervention in Libya. In the Washington Post Stephen Stromberg asks what Mr Obama means by "assisting the opposition". Peter Feaver says in Foreign Policy that it isn't clear what outcomes the military must achieve to declare mission accomplished. The BBC's See Also blogs brings together comment from across the web on the subject.

0952 Libyans search for those missing since the fighting began writes Kareem Fahim in the New York Times.

0944Libya's foreign minister made a private visit to Tunisia late on Monday, according to the country's official state news agency, quoted by AP. It was not clear whether Moussa Koussa was defecting.

0939 Ousama Abushagur tweets: "From source in Trip: Mercenaries are being based in Tobacco Factory in Tripoli along with G Troops. #libya #tripoli #feb17."

0933"Money, new home, just ask your daughter to change what she has said. I told my daughter, keep silent." These are the reported words of the mother of Eman al-Obaidi, a woman who says she was subjected to a brutal sexual attack by pro-Gaddafi troops. According to an interview broadcast on Sky News her mother has been offered cash to make her daughter retract her story.

0925Some of Libya's rebel fighter are nationals returning to their homeland from around the world. Rashad, from the nothern England city of Manchester, tells BBC World Service why he has gone back: "My blood was boiling when I saw children, women killed. I cannot take it. I cannot sit back. If I die for the sake of this country I will be [...] delighted"

0921The US is to send an envoy to Libya to meet with rebel leaders, AP reports. American diplomat Chris Stevens will travel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the coming days to establish better ties with groups seeking to get rid of the Libyan leader.

0915 The Telegraph predicts that the UK Prime Minister David Cameron will say the allied intervention has given the Libyan people a much better chance of a democratic future than if the world had failed to act.

0910The BBC's political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, in London, says that the UK Prime Minister David Cameron will be seeking to project both clarity and unity of purpose among all parties involved in the intervention in Libya at the conference.

0905 Aided by international air strikes, the rebels had made rapid progress in recent days, taking several coastal towns, including Bin Jawad. But a BBC correspondent in the coastal city of Ajdabiya says the rebel forces have been halted some 50km east of Sirte, Col Gaddafi's birthplace.

0900 If you're just joining us, welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the crisis in Libya and unrest elsewhere in the Middle East. A quick update: Libyan rebels say pro-Gaddafi forces have used heavy weaponry to check the rebel advance westwards along the coast.

0852Defence and security analyst Charles Heyman tells the BBC World Service that having a plan for a political future is vital. "The plan for the peace will help you to win the military operation. The last thing we want is a disaster like we had in Iraq, where there was no plan for peace."

0849The Syrian government is to resign on Tuesday and a new cabinet will be created within 24 hours, a high-ranking official in Damascus tells AFP.

0843 Checking the words against the facts in Obama's speech on US intervention in Libya.

0839The British Foreign Secretary William Hague tells the BBC that the UK is not involved in regime change. "We would like him to go, but militarily what we're involved in is the resolution. And we will stick strictly to that resolution. And I think one of the advantages we've had over the last few weeks is that we have stuck completely to international law, to the UN resolution, to taking clear legal advice to our own Cabinet."

0833Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere tells the BBC World Service that Libya needs a political process. "As far as I know no-one will represent Libya at this meeting, because I think everybody here is of the view that Col Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy to represent Libya. There may be opposition representatives," he says.

0828The British Foreign Secretary William Hague says he wants Col Gaddafi to leave power and face the International Criminal Court, but he refuses to speculate about the possibility of the Libyan dictator going into exile, saying he wouldn't "choose Gaddafi's retirement home.....where he goes, if he goes, it's up to the people of Libya."

0823In his letter Col Gaddafi accuses the coalition forces of committing genocide. "It seems that you in Europe and America don't realise the hellish, barbaric offensive which compares... to Hitler's campaigns when he invaded Europe and bombed Britain," he writes, according to AFP.

0818 Rome is negotiating an African haven for the Libyan leader as international pressure mounts on him to go, according to the Guardian.

0811"Unemployed hipsters and middle-aged mechanics, street toughs to university students." Just who are the Libyan rebels? The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson explains.

0807The BBC's Ben Brown, in Ajdabiya, says that the coalition is reportedly dropping propaganda for the pro-Gaddafi forces, telling them to disobey orders and go home to their families. "But from what we are seeing on the ground, forces loyal to the Libyan leader still are fighting," he says.

0802The BBC's Naomi Grimley, in London, says that reports that rebel representatives would attend the conference began after the US president mentioned that his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, might be meeting them in London.

0754 Ahmed tweets: "#Libya is not shaping up to be #Iraq it feels more like Bosnia after the UN intervened."

0748Col Gaddafi calls for an end to the "barbaric offensive" in a letter addressed to international powers meeting in London to discuss Libya, according to AFP.

0743"Attacking Libya was the Europeans' idea - not just for moral but for self-interested reasons - and we're going along to pay them back for helping us in Afghanistan," writes Slate's William Saletan.

0737Lord Goldsmith, the UK Attorney General at the time of the Iraq war says tells the BBC that although the purpose of the UN resolution was to protect civilians, that doesn't necessarily mean removal of Col Gaddafi would be illegal. "It's for the governments and the military commanders who are in possession of all the information to determine whether a particular step is necessary - that's the word in the resolution, and also proportionate, that's a principle of international law - in order to achieve that objective."

0732Libyan rebels, who have retaken a number of oil fields and terminals in eastern Libya over the weekend, can sell oil under their control, according to a US treasury department official cited by the Associated Press. "The rebels are not part of the government of Libya. They are not subject to the sanctions," the unnamed official said.

0727 Salwinder tweets: "I think the rebels should seriously consider bypassing#Sirte & head straight to Misratah. They can worry about Sirte after #Libya is free."

0723 The London conference intends to begin shift from military involvement towards the diplomatic endgame, says the BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent, Jonathan Marcus.

0718 "In his big speech on Libya, President Barack Obama answered two big questions, left two hanging in the air, and rewrote some recent history." Read more of the BBC North America Editor Mark Mardell's thoughts on Obama's speech in his blog.

0711 More details about the London conference - chaired by British Foreign Secretary William Hague it will be hosted at Lancaster House, in London, beginning at 1400 BST and ending three hours later. A press conference is expected at 1730 BST.

0705"The current regime has completely lost its legitimacy." These are the words of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy ahead of the London conference. "Gaddafi must therefore go immediately. We call on all his followers to leave him before it is too late. We call on all Libyans who believe that Gaddafi is leading Libya into a disaster to take the initiative now to organize a transition process."

0701Amnesty International says that Libyan forces loyal to Col Gaddafi have carried out a campaign of "enforced disappearances". "There is every reason to believe that these individuals are at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment," says the organisation's Malcolm Smart. Read the full report here.

0656The UK Foreign Office denies reports that members of the Libyan opposition will be attending today's conference in London.

0651The tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar is deploying a third of its fighter-jet fleet in Libya. "Certain countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt haven't taken leadership for the last three years. So we wanted to step up and express ourselves, and see if others will follow," Gen Mubarak al-Khayanin, the Qatari Air Force chief of staff told AP.

0645The US President has defended the US intervention in Libya, saying there was both a moral case for involvement and a national interest in using force in the country. Read his speech in full here.

0640 The Pentagon's lead spokesman on operations in Libya operations, Navy Vice Adm William Gortney has insisted the US military is not co-ordinating with the rebels. But he conceded that Western air power is propelling them forward. "Clearly they're achieving a benefit from the actions that we're taking," he said, according to AP.

0634 International delegations - from the coalition, the UN, Nato, the African Union and Arab League - are preparing to meet in London for discussions on the way forward for Libya.

0630 Good morning from London and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of events in Libya and unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. 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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