Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Friday, 1 April 2011 18:01 UK

Libya and Mid-East crisis as it happened: Friday

  • Rebel forces are pressing on to the front line around the Libyan oil town of Brega, BBC correspondents say. More uniformed and better disciplined soldiers seem to be bolstering the usual disorganised rebel fighters, they add
  • Seven civilians died and 25 were hurt in a coalition air strike on a pro-Gaddafi convoy in eastern Libya, a doctor there has told the BBC
  • Top US military officer Adm Mike Mullen says coalition attacks have destroyed about 25% of the Libyan military's capabilities
  • British officials have questioned Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, who fled to the UK on Thursday after resigning his post
  • A number of close advisers to Col Gaddafi have reportedly left Libya and are awaiting flights out of Tunisia, reports say
  • Syria's President Assad has ordered a judicial committee look into lifting the state of emergency, in force since 1963
  • All times GMT. Live page reporters: Anna Jones, Michael Hirst and David Walker

1659 We're ending our live coverage for the day, but don't forget to visit the BBC news website for all the latest stories from the region and the rest of the world.

1655 adeb91 tweets: "Revolutionaries retook #brega #libya today, as professional fighter moved to front lines, more organised and better equipped today. #feb17"

1650 Syrian imams and preachers at Friday prayers said the country was facing a "conspiracy" hatched by major foreign powers, the state-run news agency Sana reported.

1644 NoonArabia tweets: "In response to #AliSaleh today I say "Those that make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable." #Yemen #yf "

1631 Back now to Libya: Gunfire has been heard near Col Gaddafi's fortified compound in
Tripoli, Reuters reports. Resident said they saw snipers on rooftops and pools of blood on the streets. The reports cannot be verified.

1624 LinaAnani tweets: "Machine guns on top of pickups roaming the streets with shouts of victory by the Syrian security forces #syria."

1621 Sticking with Syria for a minute, Mohamed in Deraa tells BBC Arabic: "Demonstrations that went out from Al-Omaray Mosque are asking for freedom, nothing else. They were stopped by security forces who fired tear gas. The security divided the demonstrators into two groups. Demonstrators came to support their brothers in Deraa and gathered around the Al-Omary Mosque. After that security stopped people from many villages around Deraa east, west and south. There was live ammunition and tear gas used against demonstrators. It is not over yet, demonstrations are still going on. Security forces are not letting people go anywhere. All roads are blocked."

1617 wissamtarif tweets: "Hundred of mobiles have been confiscated in Kafarsouseh today from protesters #Syria #March15 #Daraa."

1614 Back now to the violence in Syria: Witnesses in Douma, near Damascus, said snipers dressed in civilian clothes shot at people from rooftops. Video sent to the BBC by a trusted source showed people running down a street with gunfire crackling through the air.

1610 JohnLazarz tweets: "Moussa Koussa defects, more trained rebel soldiers on the front; #Gaddafi is fooling himself if he thinks he can hold out #libya #feb17"

1606 Following on from Spain's announcement that it will fund "humanitarian corridors" to Benghazi, the EU now says it will mount a military operation to support humanitarian assistance - if asked to by the UN - called EUFOR Libya.

1600 Arab affairs commentator Sultan Al Qassemi tweets: "Radio Sawa: Eyewitness says Bashar's "baltagiya" (thug) security officers were dressed in civilian clothes & all wore a blue ribbon #Syria"

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1555 Fatima in Benghazi, Libya, writes: "Gaddafi, Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bashar Assad are not saints, even if you compare them to each other. They all have oppressed their people for too long and they all must go. Their time is up! Finito! It's time that the people of Libya, Yemen and Syria lead free lives and have their voices heard without fear."

1549 Libya Feb 17 tweets: "DIRECT from Misrata: 3 martyrs so far today, one body was completely charred. One injured being operated on - #Libya"

1544 Just to recap on Friday's violence in Syria: A witness has told AFP by telephone that Syrian security forces killed at least four people and wounded dozens more when they opened fire on protesters in the town of Douma, north of Damascus.

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1540 A witness in Douma, Syria, who asks to remain anonymous, writes: "There were around 3,000 people taking part in the protest. I was there with my friends and witnessed everything, they were shooting live fire on us. People ran away to hide behind corners. There were clashes between people and the police. I saw about 10 people being killed and many wounded - they must be about 100. We had to escape to a safe place. I am with my friends now. We've got videos and now we are going to upload them."

1531 Nato says sandstorms have been hampering its ability to identify air strike targets in Libya, although the weather was said to be improving on Friday.

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1524Hiefa, who has contacts in Misrata tells the BBC: "Now there is a battle between the rebels and Gaddafi's force in Misrata in the heavy transport road. Gaddafi's forces have been able to access the main warehouses of goods supply. They are bombing the fuel and water stores. At the same time, Gaddafi's forces are bombing the city centre heavily and randomly. If Gaddafi succeeds in trying to control these areas, he will destroy Misrata in a couple of hours. The situation there [is] very serious. People in Misrata wondering why the coalition force has not stopped Gaddafi's force until now? "

1517 Spain says it will create and fund two humanitarian "land corridors" to send aid to the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya. Secretary of State for Co-operation Soraya Rodriguez says Madrid has struck a deal with the Arab Medical Association, based in Cairo, which will convey humanitarian supplies.

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1512 Amal in Yemen, a supporter of President Saleh, writes: "I have been to Yemen recently and was in the protest for a week. Most people out in the street are there not because they want President Ali Abdullah Saleh out but because they want their rights, including: More work offers, better education for the next generation and for other personal needs. There has been killings and shootings but not from the president. All of us Yemeni people know the group are being led by enemies of Yemen. Yemen should go back to how it was before. We never give up on trying to protect our country and especially our beloved President Ali Abdullah Saleh."

1502 More on that report that Libya's rebels have struck a deal to sell oil to Qatar. The rebels' finance chief, Ali Tarhouni, says funds raised will enable them to buy weapons, food, medicine and fuel.

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1451Ibrahim writes: "I just came back recently from Aden in Yemen (my parents' origin). This government is a gang. It's run by Saleh and his family. Literally, this man has turned this country into his own real estate. He has to be investigated and prosecuted. Gaddafi is really a saint when compared to Ali Abdullah Saleh."

1444 An update on Emam al-Obeidi, the woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel on Saturday to tell foreign journalists that she'd been raped by Col Gaddafi's soldiers, before being dragged out of the hotel by security officials. She hasn't been seen since. Her parents have told the BBC they're sad about what happened, and that they're proud of their daughter.

1435 This just in from the US: The CIA has sent a small, covert team into rebel-held eastern Libya while the White House debates whether to arm the opposition, The operatives are in Libya to gather intelligence to help direct Nato airstrikes and to help train inexperienced rebel fighters, it says.

1429 We'll be bringing you minute-by-minute updates, breaking news from our correspondents on the ground, analysis from around the world and your reaction to events. Do get in touch with your thoughts - by email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

1425 If you're just joining us, welcome to the BBC's live coverage of unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Aside from the ongoing battles between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces along Libya's northern coastline, today the focal points of unrest are in Syria - where several people have reportedly been killed in anti-government protests - and Yemen, where security forces in the capital Sanaa are trying to separate thousands of people holding rival demonstrations for and against the government.

1417 More from Syria, where the state news agency says there have been protests in Deraa and Latakia calling for accelerated reforms. But it says there have been no confrontations between protesters and security forces, and reports calm elsewhere in the country. There's no mention of the reported deaths in the capital, nor the alleged use of tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Deraa.

1409 Back to Libya now, where Libya Feb 17 tweets: "Opp. official says Qatar agreed to give revolutionaries money to buy weapons in exchange for oil - #libya #feb17 -"

1405 As if the unrest reverberating around the Mediterranean coastline wasn't enough, the region has just been hit by more shockwaves in the form of a magnitude 6.2 earthquake centred beneath the island of Crete.

1356 One eyewitness in Douma, who wants to remain anonymous, said security forces have now blocked off access to the hospital in the area and are arresting the injured. We'll give you more details as we get them.

1353 Reuters quotes witnesses in the Douma suburb of Syria's capital Damascus as saying that at least three protesters have been killed by security forces.

1348 A quick update from Syria, where protests are ongoing in the central city of Homs, the largely Kurdish north-east of the country, and the southern city of Deraa. In Deraa - a focal point of the recent unrest that has seen dozens killed - marchers have been chanting: "We want freedom".

1341 Although the rebels are outnumbered 10-1, numbers are not a problem, says Gamu al Gamaty of the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council. It is the fact that they are only lightly armed. The rebels should be allowed to buy heavy arms to bolster their cause, he tells the BBC News Channel.

1336 Our correspondent says the rebels are now starting a major onslaught on Brega, having given a boisterous reception to two key rebel figures - the former interior minister and the former head of the armed forces. Brega's significance is as one of the major oil towns on the route to Col Gaddafi's birthplace of Sirte, our correspondent adds.

1329 The BBC's Nick Springate reports from Libya's eastern town of Brega that for the first time, rag-tag rebel forces have been bolstered by a number of well-armed, seemingly well-trained soldiers in full military attire. It's not clear where they've come from, our correspondent says, but their very presence has boosted morale on the front line. "

1325 The military front is not Libya's only battlefield, adds our correspondent. "There are economic sanctions and an arms embargo. But there is a diplomatic struggle underway too; the aim being two-fold - either to try to persuade Col Gaddafi to step down and go into exile, or to encourage the crumbling of his regime from within. The defection of his foreign Minister represents a small but significant victory in this struggle. The hope, especially in London, Paris and Washington is that more will follow in his foot-steps. There's a psychological battle too. Are regime elements really reaching out for some kind of deal? Or is this too a gambit on the part of coalition nations to sow more uncertainty in Tripoli? Either way this conflict is far from over, but if there is to be a decisive end, it could come suddenly."

1323 Our diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus takes stock of the current situation in Libya. Two weeks ago Libyan government forces were at the gates of Bengazi, and Col Gaddafi was threatening terrible vengeance against civilians there, he says. "Fearing a humanitarian catastrophe the UN Security Council passed a resolution allowing the use of force and the air operations began. The change in military fortunes on the ground was swift. Now it was the lightly-armed opposition forces that were advancing westwards; Libyan government tanks, artillery and supply lines harried from the air. But now the pendulum has swung back to the government side. Its forces have re-captured many of the small towns that they lost early on. The reasons for this shift are unclear. Is it a change of tactics by the government forces? Has Nato air power taken its foot off the gas? Or is it simply that the hollowness of the rag-tag rebel forces has been revealed for all to see ?"

1317 As demonstrations continue across Syria, the International Atomic Energy Agency has just announced it is inspecting a site in the country which correspondents say is part of a long delayed investigation into suspected nuclear activity.

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1310 The BBC's Robin Lustig has this hypothesis on the situation in Libya. "Perhaps, within the next few days, Muammar Gaddafi's forces will collapse as more of his senior aides defect," he suggests. "On the other hand... we may be in for a long haul. The only thing we can say with any certainty is that no one at this stage can predict how - or when - it will end."

1259 This just in from our colleagues over at the Today programme, who have just conducted an interview with Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanim. telling Today presenter Justin Webb that he remains loyal to the Gadaffi regime.

1254 In Yemen, meanwhile, al-Jazeera's Sherine Tadros tweets: "Protesters on #facebook describing President #Saleh's speech today as "April's fool joke" #yemen". She adds that five civilians were reportedly injured as "thugs" attacked anti-government protesters in Hudeidah, west of the capital Sanaa.

1248 Dicey Lee tweets: "#Libya Misrata - Tripoli St, Gaddafi forces R pillaging the city: shops & homes. They are targeting indiscriminatory, massive destruction."

1245 The UN Envoy to Libya, Abdelilah al-Khatib, has held talks with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council, in Benghazi. He said the UN wants a ceasefire in Libya to protect civilians, adding that he had brought this issue up during a meeting with Col Gaddafi's's aides in Tripoli yesterday. Al-Jazeera reports that, for his part, Mr Jalil said the NTC would respect a ceasefire provided Col Gaddafi respects it too, adding that government forces must be withdrawn from besieged cities, including Sirte, Misrata and Tripoli.

1242 More from Misrata, as Free Libya tweets: "#misrata is being hit heavily by pro #gaddafi pigs, with mortars, tanks, rocket propelled grenades + more. #libya #feb17 "

1240 But the news from areas where fighting is ongoing in Libya is not so encouraging, as Feb17Libya tweets: "Sami from #Misrata: We no longer recognise the place. The destruction can't be described."

1236 Perhaps this is better news from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Libya. ICRC officials are in Tripoli at the invitation of Libya's authorities discussing how to expand humanitarian activities nationwide. "The organisation stands ready to assess the situation from a humanitarian viewpoint in some of the worst-affected areas in order to meet the most pressing needs of vulnerable people," said the ICRC in a statement.

1232 Fears of unrest in Syria are reportedly being realised, as wissamtarif tweets: "#Douma needs some media attention NOW Security thugs have injured big number of peaceful protesters #Syria #March15 #Daraa"

1229 Tensions are high in Syria, as EA tweets: "So worried today. Actually, worry doesnt even begin to describe the feeling. Home, not going out, praying for peace in #Syria. #Damascus"

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1225 The New York Times has the latest from Yemen's capital Sanaa, "Dueling protests gripped this dusty, divided city on Friday as tens of thousands of people prayed in the streets for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule while his supporters staged large demonstrations of their own warning of the chaos that would come to Yemen if he were driven from power," it says.

1221 A quick update on protests in Syria, where eyewitnesses in the southern city of Deraa have told the BBC that hundreds of people had left a mosque after Friday prayers to join a march. Security has been stepped up in the capital Damascus. Activists have promised what they call a Day of Martyrs to honour the dozens of people who've been killed in two weeks of protests. On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad failed to calm public anger when he addressed the nation blaming the demonstrations on a foreign conspiracy.

1217 The Arab League has thrown its weight behind Libya's rebel forces. Hisham Youssef, who was the bloc's representative at this week's London conference on the future of Libya, said the Arab League would support whatever end to the conflict satisfies Libya's opposition. "If the opposition is satisfied then we will be satisfied," Mr Youssef told Radio 4's World at One. "And from our contacts with them, it seems that they will only be satisfied when they see regime change."

1213 Meanwhile, Qatar is set to provide fuel, medicine, food and other humanitarian needs to Libya's rebels as part of a deal to market oil from rebel-held eastern Libya, a top rebel finance official is quoted as telling Reuters.

1209 Thousands of Serbs are supporting a Facebook campaign to show solidarity with the Libyan regime, saying the airstrikes bring back bad memories of Nato's bombing of Serbia. The page entitled "Support for Muammar al Gaddafi from the people of Serbia" has attracted more than 65,000 supporters, BBC Monitoring reports.

1205 In Libya, the leader of the opposition council based in Bengahzi, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has said they would consider a conditional ceasefire with the much better armed and disciplined pro-Gaddafi forces. "Our main goal is to achieve a lasting ceasefire that will hold," he told Al-Jazeera.

1200 If you're just joining us, welcome to the BBC's live coverage of unrest in Libya and across the Middle East and North Africa. For months now, Friday has been a "day of rage" in countries where the leaders face popular protest. While international military action continues in Libya to protect civilians, in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, people are staying huge demonstrations, which often provoke a violent response from the authorities.

1159 Reuters quotes a Yemeni cleric as saying during prayers at the protests: "I say to you, Saleh, while you sit terrified in your palace, that the people are on to your tricks. You [protesters] represent the oppressed, the poor and the imprisoned."

1157 Mr Saleh's opponents, who have been occupying a square outside Sanaa university for weeks, say he is a "traitor" to the country. "The Yemeni people are in revolt. We, the army and the police are united under oppression," Reuters quoted protesters as saying.

1154 Back to Yemen, where another beleagured leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been addressing his supporters in the capital, Sanaa. He has told them: "I swear to you that I will sacrifice my blood and soul and everything precious for the sake of this great people."

1149 For more background to the events in Syria, have a look at our Syria crisis special report page. There you'll find a piece from the BBC's Jim Muir, suggesting that Mr Assad "clearly believed he was talking from a position of strength" when he spoke to the crowds last night.

1146 Those on the streets in Syria are angry that President Bashar al-Assad did not lift the decades-long state of emergency when he addressed the country on Wednesday. Instead, he said he was directing a committee to look at ways of lifting the emergency law.

1144 Razaniyatr tweets: "Two hundred protesters in Latakya trying to set up protest camps now."

1142 "In Damascus, there is a heavy security presence around main mosques and protesters are reported to be locked inside the mosques," says our correspondent. "In one of them they are chanting 'the one who kills his people is a traitor' and 'we are all Syrians', to defeat claims by the government that there is sectarian violance."

1139 From the Syrian capital Damascus, the BBC's Lina Sinjab says there are reports of widespread protests across the country, mainly in the north-eastern cities of Hassakeh and Qamishli where a heavy security presence is trying to disperse protesters.

1136 We now have a developing story on the Libyan doctor's reports of civilian deaths from a coalition air strike near Brega.

1129 Rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil has told a news conference in Benghazi: "We have no objection to a ceasefire but on condition that Libyans in western cities have full freedom in expression of their views."

1126 The IOM said it was only able to repatriate 20 people a day and needed $160m (£100m) to continue its work. "The crisis shows no signs of abating and thousands of migrants are fleeing the country on a daily basis," said Ms Pandya.

1122 The International Organisation for Migration has appealed for more funding to help repatriate migrants fleeing Libyan violence. Spokeswoman Jemimi Pandya said the IOM has had to "dramatically reduce the number of people we can evacuate a day from the height of 6,000 a day to an absolute bare minimum."

1121 Here's more from Libyan intelligence chief Abuzayd Umar Durdah, who called in to state TV last night to deny reports he was defecting. He told them: "It is impossible for Abuzayd Durdah to think, not only when awake but even when dreaming, of leaving Libya or the Libyan people or the revolution, or betraying its leader Muammar al-Gaddafi...I am in Libya and am going to stay in it, and I am steadfast in the victorious revolution's trench."

1114 Reports of civilian deaths from the coalition strikes have been rare, says our correspondent. "The coalition know the dangers of killing civilians in any kind of large scale and they've been trying to avoid it. It's made them less effective in their campaign against the pro-Gaddafi forces, but it would be very destructive indeed if there was a constant stream of civilian casualties."

1113 The BBC's John Simpson in Tripoli says the Gaddafi regime would be more interested in the alleged deaths if the site was in the areas they control, so they could take reporters to the scene.

1111 The doctor told the BBC that the family of the dead girls had no bitterness and wanted the strikes to continue, says our correspondent.

1108 The BBC's Ben Brown has more on the Libyan doctor's report on civilian deaths near Brega (see 1035). The doctor said the coalition airstrike had targeted a pro-Gaddafi convoy, but that missiles hit a truck carrying ammunitions. The truck was between two houses when it exploded, killing three girls from the same family. The BBC has been unable to confirm this information.

1105 Al-Jazeera's Abdurahman Warsame tweets: "Massive crowd in the protests supporting President Abdullah Saleh. The biggest pro-democracy yet is in Taez today #Yemen ."

1104 AFP reports from Yemen that President Ali Abdullah Saleh has vowed to defend his people. Mr Saleh is addressing a huge rally in the capital, Sanaa.

1103 Moftasa tweets: "Pro-Gadafi march heading to Tahrir (or Arab League). Around 60 Libyans and Egyptians. #Libya #Egypt ."

1052 LibyanDictator tweets: "BREAKING: Violent clashes in #Misrata as Gaddafi brigades attempt to push further into city using heavy shelling and mortars."

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1048 Lots has been said about the reported defection of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa to the UK. What kind of man is he? Paul Pillar did business with him several years ago and offers an assessment in "Whatever thuggish history may be in his past, it is hard to picture him as representing the current thuggish elements of the Libyan regime," says the author. "In this moment of trial, anguish, and uncertainty, probably something inside told him that he belongs in the West."

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1042 Over at the Foreign Policy blog, Najla Abdurrahman "There is a pressing need for officials and commentators to clarify connections drawn between Libya and al-Qaeda and to provide more accurate and responsible analysis," the author argues.

1038 Libyan state TV is reporting that Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi has met the UN Secretary General's special envoy to Libya, Abdel Elah Al Khatib, in Tripoli. Our colleagues at BBC Monitoring say the TV showed a brief clip of the two men talking. They met on Thursday and discussed "recent events in Libya, the problems they had caused and efforts to overcome them", State TV reported.

1035 A Libyan doctor has told the BBC that a coalition airstrike on Wednesday killed seven civilians and wounded 25 in a village near Brega. The BBC has been unable to confirm this information, and we're checking it with the MOD. We'll get you more details shortly.

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1032 whether the Muslim Brotherhood will take part in today's "day of anger".

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1028 The esteemed Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times has "Egypt is a mess," he says succinctly. "A young democracy almost always is. Let's get used to it."?

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1024 Turning to Syria, " ID="" STYLE="LINK_Inline"> Damascene Thoughts blogs: "Assad missed a golden opportunity to save what's left of his credibility with free thinking Syrians. He in effect expanded the opposition populist base and made it more mainstream by alienating those without an agenda. He polarized and divided Syrians more than ever before. What started on March 15th had lit a spark of a revolution in Syria that is much bigger than what took place since. It's a revolution of the oppressed against fear and gullibility. It's a revolution of the state of mind of many Syrians."

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1016 Over at the Informed Comment blog, Professor Juan Cole Its importance, he argues, "lies in its being a sign of the winds shifting against Qaddafi with his inner circle, which will affect the loyalty of his outer circle of tribal leaders".

1008 BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera says there's clearly a hope in the UK that Libya's government is crumbling, with Moussa Koussa's defection set to prompt a flood of departures. But the picture remains murky as to how many more will join the foreign minister: They will be keeping an eye on the battle field before deciding which way to jump, our correspondent suggests.

1000 Pro-Gaddafi forces have sown land mines in areas around rebel-held Ajdabiya, adding a dangerous new element to the war on the eastern front, human rights and mine experts are quoted as telling Reuters.

0954 Britons are being advised to get out of Yemen, with the UK Foreign Office tweeting: "#Yemen: We strongly urge British nationals to leave now by commercial means. Contact details for airlines in Yemen:  It's highly unlikely that the British government will be able to evacuate you or provide consular assistance if you do not leave now "

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0950 Adil in Turkey writes: "To embrace a better life for Libya has become a concern for the British, since when? Is this concern already extended or will be extended to all other nations under humanitarian preoccupations accompanied by air-attacks?"

0942 Crowds are building in Yemen's capital, as Sultan Al Qassemi tweets: "Al Jazeera: 100,000s of Yemenis arrive at protest squares in 15 governorates as anti-riot forces take positions by Sanaa Presidential Palace"

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0936 On a lighter note, has this interesting April 1st exclusive that defected Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton later this month. "Gaddafi henchman offered pew at Will and Kate's ceremony in return for state secrets," it claims.

0926 The UN special envoy to Libya has arrived in Benghazi to meet officials of the rebels' provisional council, rebel are quoted as telling Reuters. Rebels said they hoped to show Abdelilah al-Khatib they are "putting their house in order" and that this would help gain the national council international recognition as Libya's legitimate government, the agency reports.

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0922 What can we discern from the fighting in Libya? The Economist argues the only emerging pattern is one of wildly see-sawing fortunes, as coastal towns change hands with almost metronomic regularity. the paper argues the coalition's priorities are to halt the advance of loyalist troops, bring some relief to the civilians in Misrata and encourage members of the regime to start looking for a way out.

0916 Our colleagues at BBC Monitoring report that Libyan intelligence chief Abuzayd Umar Durdah has called into Libyan state TV denying claims he had defected. He called into a live discussion programme on the state-owned Al-Jamahiriyah TV channel late on Thursday night, saying: "I don't have one reason to depart the homeland or to betray the people or the leader and the victorious revolution he is leading."

0910 Bamyabombom tweets: "#US gov asks its nationals to leave #Syria, what about those detained there?"

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0907 Turning to Syria, our competition over at al-Jazeera have put together

0900 If you're just joining us, good morning from London and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the unrest in Libya and across the Middle East. We'll be bringing you breaking news from our correspondents on the ground, analysis and your reactions from around the world. Do get in touch with your thoughts, by email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

0857 On the reported defection of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa to the UK, meanwhile, LIBTRIP tweets: "We need #MousaKousa to speak about #Gaddafi plans, ideas, whereabout, I mean everything if he is really willing to help us."

0854Back to Libya now, with LibyaFeb17_com tweeting: "Gaddafi regime quietly putting guards at key positions to prevent defections."

0847 Tensions are building in Yemen's capital Sanaa, where our correspondent says anti-government protesters are heading towards the university, while those backing the president are gathering in Tahrir Square. There have been reports that government and opposition representatives met late on Thursday and agreed to avoid confrontation, our correspondent adds.

0842 On a brighter note, have a look at from where Fulbright scholar Lauren Bohn tweets: "Friday hugs in #Tahrir: "We are Egyptians! We love!" #Jan25 #Egypt"

0834 Amid all the regional unrest, Israel has remained relatively peaceful in the past two months. How does it feel about the turmoil swirling around it? in a comment piece for The Guardian. "Unlike Hamas and Hezbollah, the young want peace and progress in our region."

0826 In Yemen, hundreds of thousands are gathering across the country, with pro-and anti-government demonstrations taking place in the capital Sanaa. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to resign by January 2012, but the opposition and protesters are calling for his immediate departure. For many years Mr Saleh was seen by Washington as the only man who could keep at al-Qaeda at bay in Yemen, says a BBC correspondent in the country. But that sentiment has changed, adds our correspondent, with many now seeing him as the main source of instability in the country.

0818 Rumours are swirling in the Libyan capital of more senior government defections,

0813 Syria is bracing for a day of protests after clashes that have killed an estimated 60 people across the country in recent weeks. SyrianProtester tweets: "No place for Fear. We will Replace it with hope. Freedom for Syria."

0809 From Tripoli, our world affairs editor John Simpson says there is no sign whatsoever of the system collapsing, although he adds that often in situations like these the first sign of a government collapse is when it actually happens.

0804 With their advance stalled, some rebels consider a collapse of the Gaddafi regime their best bet of victory, says the BBC's Ben Brown in Ajdabiya. Our correspondent says many in the city are living in fear of an invasion by pro-government forces.

0758 There's lots of interest in Friday's papers about the reported defection of Libya's foreign minister. Referring to Moussa Koussa as Col Gaddafi's "fingernail puller-in-chief" who is "up to his eyeballs in murder", the UK's Daily Mail asks pensively

0752 In Libya's capital, Tripoli, with shortages of money, fuel and bread. "For those who have been nervously watching scenes on their televisions of the rebels advancing then retreating over and over again, the sense of a stalemate that could prolong the conflict has been gradually sinking in - rather depressingly," one resident tells the BBC.

0747 How is the war in Libya being funded? Early on in the rebellion, Col Gaddafi's government reportedly gave away 500 dinars ($400; £250) to every family, and said it would raise state salaries by up to 150%. Some loyalists in Tripoli were given as much as 17,000 dinars, a new car and a weapon. And foreign mercenaries, of whom there are thousands, were reportedly being paid as much as $10,000 to sign on, with a daily wage of up to $1,000. For more details,

0742 On the issue of the defection of Libya's foreign minister, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says the British government can offer Moussa Koussa a plea-bargain, but it has to avoid offering him immunity, which would be illegal in international law. Mr Koussa is a man of infinite treachery, has been accused of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing as well as the torture and killing of Libyan dissidents, the QC tells the BBC news Channel, so nothing he says can be taken at face value.

0734 From the Syrian capital, Damascus, Al-Jazeera's Cal Perry tweets: "The streets of #damascus are alive with the sound of secret police silently getting into position. #Syria"

0730 libyahmed tweets: "If when this is over we lose our freedom to the west, then every Libyan blood spilt, would have been spilt in vain! We cannot have that#libya"

0726 With anger seething across the region, protests are expected in both Syria and Yemen after Friday prayers later. In Egypt, activists have called for a million-man march in Cairo. We'll bring you all the latest developments here.

0720 Foreign Policy magazine's Blake Hounshell tweets: "Another Friday in the Arab world. This one seems pivotal in Jordan, Syria, Yemen. Also, will Egyptians turn out or stay home today?"

0715 The rebels are probably beginning to accept that they cannot win this battle on their own, says the BBC's Ben Brown in Ajdabiya. Airstrikes have been hindered by cloud cover in the last couple of days, thwarting any rebel advances, although they are expected to push for more ground today around Brega, he adds.

0712 Dima Khatib
tweets: "Someone who's been in power for 41 years 6 months and one day today would certainly know what it means to be "power mad" #libya #feb17"

e-mail sent in by reader
0708 Lossenie in the US writes: "I believe the so-called Libyan rebels are bunch of panicky recruits who cannot withstand huge pounding of heavy artilleries in the frontline. Our governments are wasting taxpayers money for a joke."

0704 Col Gaddafi brushed off both the impact of airstrikes and the reported defections in his latest address on Thursday, accusing foreign powers involved in the military action of being "power-mad" and calling on their leaders to resign immediately in order to end the conflict.

0654 bintlibya tweets: "#Germany when #Hitler was rounding up#Jews and minorities did the world stand by and say this needs to be solved via mediation??!! The #German situation was solved via military intervention. #Gaddafi is our #Hitler don't be the advocates against the human rights of #Libya"

0650 ShababLibya tweets: "What we do know is Libyan men and women will not stand for anything less than their freedom,justice & democracy#libya #feb17"

0646 Speaking on a visit to China, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said the crisis in Libya cannot be resolved through military means and called for a cease-fire.

0642 The British government has confirmed to the BBC that a senior aide to Col Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, has been in London for a series of talks. Details are scant, but reports in the Middle East suggest Saif al-Islam Gaddafi may have a plan to offer himself as a transitional leader, giving his father the chance to step down. Added to the reported government defections, this has raised rebel hopes, but there has been no sign from Tripoli that Col Gaddafi has any intention of giving up power.

0638 The BBC's Jon Leyne in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi says there has been more fighting around the key oil town of Brega, with rebels struggling against the superior fire power, training and discipline of government forces.

0634 The last couple of days have seen a reversal of fortunes in the battle along Libya's north-eastern coast, with rebels retreating from towns gained during the past week in the face of attacks by forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi. Although the top US military officer said on Thursday coalition airstrikes had destroyed about 25% of the Libyan military's capabilities, Adm Mike Mullen warned that rebel forces were still outnumbered by 10-to-one.

0630 Good morning from an overcast London and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of events in Libya and unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. We'll be bringing you the breaking news, 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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