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CONNECT THE WORLD
Breaking News from Libya.
Aired March 8, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST, "CONNECT THE WORLD": Fierce fighting in Libya - - forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continue their onslaught of attacks on rebel groups, as the country descends further into chaos. The new round of fighting comes amid contradictory rumors about a possible exit plan for Gadhafi, as an anxious crowd in Tripoli rolls out a red carpet and waits for the Libyan leader to arrive.
And in the international community, debate heats up over whether to intervene or stay out of the growing crisis.
These stories and more ahead as we connect the world here on CNN.
I'm Becky Anderson at Djerba Airport in Tunisia, close to the Tunisian-Libyan border.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London.
Also coming up, two of the most recognizable women in America come together for Women's International Day, applauding the courage of women in the Arab world, even as a planned Million Woman March in Egypt to mark the occasion dissolved into a shouting match.
Plus, CNN Freedom Project. Tonight, we'll tell you how your life may be affected by modern-day slavery in ways you don't even realize.
ANDERSON: We want to kick off our coverage in Libya this evening for you.
I am here at Djerba Airport in Tunisia.
The leaders of the U.S. and Britain putting on a common stance so far as what they believe should or might happen next within this crisis. The White House says U.S. President Barack Obama spoke on the phone a short time ago with the British prime minister, David Cameron, and that the two leaders agree to press forward with planning a NATO response -- the possibility of a full spectrum of responses. This is the very latest that we know at this point.
Meanwhile, the fighting in Libya intensifies, as hopes dim for a negotiated end to the civil war.
Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi are on the offensive again, to the east and west of Tripoli. There are now fierce clashes in Zawiya, the town closest to the capital that has fallen to the rebels and word that the government appears to be gaining the upper hand.
And in the east, multiple airstrikes today around Ras Lanuf, an oil town that skirts the road between Benghazi and the capital, Tripoli. Rebels in Ras Lanuf say the regime unleashed a torrent of firepower, using tanks and warplanes. It's trying to stop opposition fighters from advancing east toward Gadhafi's hometown of Sirt, then on to Tripoli.
Opposition leaders in Benghazi, meantime, are denying reports they're negotiating a deal with the government for Gadhafi to step down. That contradicts an earlier statement from another opposition member. The government also denying those responses.
Well, let's get you right to the front lines of the fighting today.
Martin Geissler filing this report from close to Ras Lanuf.
MARTIN GEISSLER, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They may be short on know-how, but they don't have an alternative. These rebel fighters are doing what they can to repel their own country's military. The attacks from the air here continue, but they have to rely on binoculars and their hearing to locate the danger.
(on camera): They're bombing this place far more regularly now. Today, we had two hits in the space of about 30 minutes. Some of the bombs are falling alarmingly close. There was a thought that the pilots are likely aiming to miss, but then nobody here is believing that theory now.
It sounds like another one is coming.
(voice-over): Once the plane had passed, rebels in the oil town of Ras Lanuf took us to a family home destroyed in a strike. Another unexploded bomb lay on the street just yards away. Thankfully, the civilians here are friendly.
We drove on to the rebels' final checkpoint. Beyond this, the front line at Bin Jawad, where intense has raged all day. A spokesman from the ruling council in the east told me Colonel Gadhafi has been offered a way to stop all this.
SAAD HAMID, REBEL SPOKESMAN: He was offered today, as we've heard, from the council, the chance of leaving the country immediately and then they will look into the rest of the components of the deal.
GEISSLER: The conflict is wrecking lives. This terrified family live on the other side of the front line. The rebels were going to take them there and walk them with a white flag into government hands so they could get home. The rebel flag still flies proudly here.
With shouts of "God is great!" they send another group out to the front line, to victory or death, as they keep repeating.
Martin Geissler, ITV News, Ras Lanuf, Eastern Libya.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: All right. Well, you heard in that report from Martin that the opposition have offered Moammar Gadhafi a deal. Neither the opposition nor the government will now stand up that report. No deal, it seems, at present, on the table for Moammar Gadhafi.
OK, so Ras Lanuf is to the west of Tripoli, about 30 miles away. Let's get you to the east of Tripoli now, where Ben Wedeman is standing by.
He's been tracking rebel movements in that area -- Ben, what can you tell us at this point?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I can tell you is that it's getting increasingly more difficult, Becky, for the rebels in Ras Lanuf. They're coming under more intense air attacks. Apparently, one of those air attacks took out a vital water main in the area. So that could create more problems for them.
What we noticed was -- is that there are fewer and fewer rebel fighters actually going to Ras Lanuf, going beyond it, to the outskirts of Bin Jawad. It appears that they've really run into a major obstacle with the Libyan Army -- Libyan government forces in that town of Bin Jawad. There, just a few days ago, they were confident that they could make it to Sirt and maybe, in a few days, make it to Tripoli.
Now, the worry is that they may have to pull back from Ras Lanuf, as the government forces take full advantage of their superior weaponry, their -- their air force, their helicopters, their tanks, their surface-to- surface missiles.
The rebels, it appears, are just completely outgunned, despite the fact, Becky, that their morale is very high, they're determined -- they have a certain determination that one rarely sees in armies in this part of the world.
But they're coming up against what looks like a solid wall of metal, of iron, on the Libyan side.
ANDERSON: Ben, we're -- we're seeing that, also, this -- this sense of motivation, this sense of determination to the west of Tripoli, as well.
You say there's no giving up at this stage.
How young are these guys?
What's the profile of these guys who are fighting for the rebels at this point?
WEDEMAN: There isn't really a -- a -- a definite profile, because they range from the very young, 15, 16 years old, to the old, beyond 60, retired Libyan Army officers and whatnot. So it really -- it's the whole spectrum.
But what -- by and large, what you're seeing is inexperienced, young men who have flocked to the front, just, you know, getting their friends together, jumping in the car and going to the front. Most of them have no military experience whatsoever.
We spoke to one guy who was behind a massive anti-aircraft gun. These things shoot huge bullets about this big. And I asked him, how much training do you have?
He has -- he said, "I have none. I'm a medical student. I was given about four hours training to fire this gun."
Other people just went out on the open market, bought weapons and went to the front.
So they don't have training. They have no battlefield experience. And in addition to that, they -- they -- they've received no training whatsoever. And there's a lack of a definite command and control structure.
You ask for a commander and people say what commander?
We have no commander -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman to the east of Tripoli there, giving you a sense of what's going on in that part of Libya.
So, now, you've seen what's going on to the west of Tripoli and what is going on to the east of Tripoli.
Let's get you to the capital now, where Nic Robertson is standing by - - and, Nic, we've been waiting to hear from Moammar Gadhafi all day. You and others were promised that he would come to your hotel and would speak.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was about eight hours ago, Becky. We're still waiting for him to arrive. There is still a high level of expectancy and sort of ebbs and flows. But just, I would say, within the last hour or so, it seemed that more -- more of his security guards arrived. There was a great expectation he was going to walk in the front door. They prepared a path for him through the crowd of journalists. I can see people sitting up and walking back to the front door right now.
But now they're sitting down again. And that's the way that it's been. It's been on again, off again; on again, off again. And it really, when you have the situations going on in places like Dewiya (ph), to the east of the capital here, and Misurata, to the -- Zawiya to the west and Misurata to the east and journalists -- all the journalists here are tied up waiting for -- waiting for him to arrive, this does create the impression -- I think he may be just about to arrive right now. So we're just going to try and get ready for that. We'll try and get you a live picture up here, if we can, Becky.
It will be coming up shortly, if we can get it up. But it does look like he's about to walk in the door. I'm looking at the door now. I'm looking at all the journalists now that are around. Everyone has rushed to the front. I don't see a car coming in just yet, but that's sort of been typical of the situation. There's the car arriving now.
And we're in position, if he should arrive and if he should walk in. But this is what everyone has been waiting for. And it's not clear what he's going to say when he comes in. I don't know if you're able to see the pictures -- the live pictures we are putting up from here right now, but this is the lobby of the hotel. This is the lobby of the hotel. Everyone being pushed out of the way right now by the security officials. They -- they're giving us the impression that he's coming in. But again, we've kind of been through this several times already today -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Right. OK, well, Nic, we're going to stick with you, because we've just got live pictures up on there for our viewers now. So let's stick with this.
And let me just bring our viewers up to date while Nic gets into position.
We've been waiting all day for Moammar Gadhafi to arrive at the hotel where journalists are -- are being put up in Tripoli. It seems he's just arrived as we've been speaking to Nic. So the pictures at the hotel you are seeing on your screens now will be those that will be occupied at some point soon by Moammar Gadhafi, as he -- he comes into the hotel -- Nic.
ROBERTSON: Well, Becky, I just see the motorcade pulling up outside, so this really does seem to be the moment that -- the moment that he's arrived here. So I think we're just going to have to watch for him to come in, because we're expecting him...
ANDERSON: All right...
ROBERTSON: -- to walk in through the front door now any moment.
ANDERSON: All right, Nic, let's -- let's talk, because I don't want to leave these pictures for our viewers, because they're important ones. So let's, if you can hear me while you get yourself in position and let me know if you need to go, of course.
Let's just talk about how state TV is reflecting what we've heard from our reporters on the ground. I know that you've spent some time in Zawiya and to the east. We've heard reports from both of those areas today about what's going on with rebels.
And yet give us a sense of how the stories are being reported by state -- the state broadcasters.
All right, I think I may have lost Nic for the time being.
I'm just going to speak to the director that I've got in my ear and find out. I'm pretty sure that we've still got the -- we've got the pictures up still?
The pictures that you are seeing here on CNN are pictures of the hotel where Nic Robertson is staying. And there he is, Moammar Gadhafi.
Moammar Gadhafi surrounded by a throng of photographers at the hotel in Tripoli, where journalists have been staying at the behest, let me say, of the government.
Nic Robertson among that throng of journalists and photographers there. And as we get Nic back, we will bring him to you.
And Nic Robertson, I think you can hear me.
Just describe what's going on.
ROBERTSON: Yes, I can.
ANDERSON: Nic, if you can hear me, just describe what's going on for our viewers.
ROBERTSON: Well, Becky, right now, we have sort of a -- a large amount of confusion. The Gadhafi security guides have held everyone back. Gadhafi has gone into a secluded part of the hotel. And I'm looking at quite a large number of journalists here just waiting -- waiting to get into the room.
He's gone toward the large conference room at the end of the corridor, down here at the front. Here, they're telling the Turks and across the front here, what you're looking at here are all of Gadhafi's bodyguards and security here. And as you see, some of the cameras kind of forced their way through behind my person right now.
What happens next isn't clear. Everyone has an expectation that he may talk to the journalists here that are waiting. There are over 100 journalists here waiting. But right now, we'll just have to stand back and wait, as we have been for eight hours for him to arrive. And that's a huge crush -- crush of journalists. I don't know if you can see the picture all the way through that, but it was quite a scrum as Moammar Gadhafi came into the hotel just a few moments ago there -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Absolutely. They can -- yes, we saw those pictures -- Nic, of course the -- the story of the day has been the potential or the hope that there might have been a negotiated exit deal on the table for Moammar Gadhafi.
ANDERSON: Now, it seems that neither the opposition nor the government are now prepared to stand up those reports.
Am I right in saying that?
ROBERTSON: You are right in saying that. But from the outset, the government has said those reports were absolutely false. They described them as rubbish. They said that -- that this was really propaganda being put about by the rebels.
And to be honest, it appeared to us here to be contrary to everything that we've heard from the regime until now and -- and the government has flatly denied it from the outset. And, indeed, initially, saying that it's refusing to comment on such -- such baseless lies -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Nic, while we work out what's going on next, Moammar Gadhafi, of course, now entering your hotel just moments ago.
I want to welcome our viewers in the USA, as well.
You're watching CNN.
And we are with Nic Robertson in Tripoli, who has been waiting eight hours today for Moammar Gadhafi to pitch up at the hotel where the journalists are staying, at the behest, let me tell you, of the government.
Nic on the line -- Nic, if you can hear me, for our viewers in the U.S. who have just joined us, if you can just described what's been going on in the past five or six minutes or so.
ROBERTSON: Well, Moammar Gadhafi arrived at the hotel. He pulled up in a cavalcade of about four or five large white Land Cruisers. He got out of his vehicle surrounded by, I would say, perhaps half a dozen to a dozen bodyguards.
They swept into the hotel. There were more than 100 journalists and camera crews waiting for him to come in.
And as he came in, the whole thing descended into pandemonium and a scrum to get the best picture.
He seemed to pause. He seemed to not know which way to go. In fact, for a leader of a country this size, for somebody who has been in power for 42 years, he seemed quite a diminutive figure as he tried to make his way through the throngs of press, not knowing which way to go, his minders trying to open up a way for him through the crowd.
But eventually, he made it, made it through to a -- to a hall herein the hotel. And now we're looking at screen that people -- that his security guards lined up in front of that cloth screen. He's behind there.
What happens next, we don't know. The expectation is that he will invite the other hundreds of journalists who are here in for some sort of briefing, some sort of speech -- Becky.
ANDERSON: I know you spoke to the foreign minister yesterday about the possibility of military intervention. There's a lot of diplomatic wrangling going on, particularly at the UN, at the Security Council at present.
What did the foreign minister tell you about the possibility of any intervention at this point?
ROBERTSON: He was -- he was quite (INAUDIBLE) about it. He said that the (INAUDIBLE) -- that Libya had high expectations from President Obama initially, that -- that from what the country has seen of him since, they've had no faith in what he was saying.
They said that they've been calling -- calling for -- for sort of an international monitoring group to come into the country. He said they've been calling for that day one. And he said what they should do, what was clear to Libya and its leaders now is that the international community, and particularly the United States, France and Britain, want to divide Libya, want to partition it. He called it a return to the days -- the days of the colonies.
So his view is that this is just an effort by the international community to back the rebels and partition the country, east and west -- Becky.
ANDERSON: OK. We are waiting for Moammar Gadhafi to either appear, hold a press conference. Something is going on behind the curtain.
Nic Robertson is with us in the hotel in Tripoli, where journalists are being put up at the behest of the Libyan government -- Nic, is it obvious whether any of his family members are with him?
ROBERTSON: No. He came in by himself. It was just his security team that came in with him when he came in here, Becky. Not -- neither his -- neither of his sons or -- or anyone else appeared to be with him -- Becky.
ANDERSON: While we wait, Nic -- and I know this may be some time, but let's stay with you here, because it's an important moment in this -- in this crisis. And it is a crisis, let's face it. This is a -- this is a civil war that seems to be getting worse.
Remind our viewers who may have just joined us, I want to remind them that we've seen fighting to the west -- significant fighting with airstrikes to the west of Tripoli today, about 30 miles away. It's in a town called Ras Lanuf, which is an important strategic oil town. And up to the east of Tripoli, as well.
And we -- we're not talking hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from the capital here. We're looking -- we're talking tens of miles away.
Ben Wedeman also talking to a story there, which was rebel fighters who seemed to be being pushed back by -- but the government forces now -- but, Nic, I know you spent time in both of those areas.
What did you see when you were there?
ROBERTSON: When we were -- where we were in Zawiya yesterday, we were -- oh, this gentleman is a security gentleman and he's telling me to -- to move to the side a little bit here. This is sort of the way we're often dealt with here by officials here. They tend to move us around a little bit.
Yes, when we were on the outskirts of Dewiya (ph) yesterday, we were able to hear heavy artillery detonations. We were able to hear heavy anti- aircraft gunfire, small arms weapons fire going on. And that was -- that was what we were able to see and to hear yesterday when we were outside Zawiya. We were very close, about a mile away from where the rebels were in the center of the town.
And what we've heard from -- from a source who left the town there today, he reports again today, tanks in the city that have been killing civilians, he said, today. He also said that the two medical centers -- we're just being moved on here a little bit. The two medical centers in the city had been closed down and that the army was taking out its wounded in ambulances for treatment elsewhere.
So the situation in Zawiya, with the medical centers closed down, does give the impression that perhaps the army is getting more of an upper hand in the center of the city.
But, again, another day of fighting. That's Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday -- five days of fighting in Zawiya now. And today, again, casualties -- two doctors reported killed, both the medical centers -- the only two medical centers there treating the wounded -- the rebels' wounded have been closed down by officials.
And, again, I'm walking back here because we're being moved back by the security officials from the entrance place to where Moammar Gadhafi walked into just a few minutes ago -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes. Which brings me to my next question while we wait to find out what's going to happen in the next few moments, whether Moammar Gadhafi will, indeed, address the press or whether he will talk individually to journalists, we're not sure at the moment. But we're going to wait to find out what happens.
It brings me to another point. There's much talk at present about the at least drafting of a resolution by the U.S., the U.K. and France that would allow a no fly zone over Libya. The objectives of which, of course, would be to protect Libyan civilians from government gunfire from the air and, indeed, to enforce or force a regime change at some point.
Is it obvious that these airstrikes at this point are targeted at civilians or at those who are at arms?
ROBERTSON: Well, the government says that the targets are military targets, that (INAUDIBLE) we've seen -- we've seen bombs dropped on checkpoints. We've seen bombs narrowly miss -- narrowly miss concentrations of armed troops. But they're also, of course, (INAUDIBLE) and all of that, as well, and that, of course, is the risk of using aerial weapons that there will be civilian casualties and that, of course, is (INAUDIBLE) community.
However, having talked to government officials here over the past week, the possibility and press that there may be a no fly zone imposed on Libya has really, they've told me, forced the government not to wait to see if that happens, but to push forward and speed up its efforts to retake areas in the east of the country.
So their reaction, the government here has felt the pressure of the press of no fly zones. But the way they have responded to that pressure is to accelerate the speed of their attacks and try to retake that ground by using air power quickly, before there's a possibility of a no fly zone being imposed -- Becky.
ANDERSON: We'll just bring our viewers up to date.
We are waiting on Moammar Gadhafi. Nic is in the hotel where Moammar Gadhafi walked in just moments ago -- and, Nic, bringing us back to Tripoli, we've been talking about towns to the east and to the west of the country.
What about Tripoli?
What's going on there?
ROBERTSON: Tripoli itself seems firmly under the control of the government here. The only weapons that have been out on the streets here over the weekend, for example, when there was a pro-government rally, the celebratory fire in the air Sunday morning; more gunfire during -- during the early morning. There were many, many Gadhafi supporters out on the streets firing their weapons.
And when we talked to opposition supporters here, they say the difficulty is, for them, they cannot come out and protest because they're not armed and they feel that this -- this puts them at a disadvantage to come out and express their feelings.
What we've seen from rebels in the east of the country, in Misurata, just 100 miles to the east of the capital in -- in Zawiya, about 40 minutes drive to the west, that the rebels there have been armed. And that's what's given them the strength to maintain their anti-government protests.
Here in the capital, we have seen protesters come out. We've seen them come out at the weekend, last Friday. The police then forced them off the streets with tear gas. Light rounds were also fired.
So the protesters in Tripoli lack the power to take on the government and establishment. And for that reason, the government very much has -- has Tripoli under control.
But a lot of anxiety here. If you talk to the average citizen here who has no interest, left or right, for this government, their big fear is for their families -- what's going to happen to their families?
Their children can't go to school. Their children wake up at night crying. The future of this country is very uncertain. Their lives, at this moment, are very uncertain. They realize that a civil war could descend upon them and that this could be a very bloody time for them.
So there's a huge amount of stress below the surface, while the government does maintain relatively firm control -- Becky.
ANDERSON: You're listening to Nic Robertson, live from Tripoli.
Our viewers in the U.S., you will get a commercial break at this point.
For our viewers internationally, we'll -- we'll stay with this story - - Nic, I wonder if you can -- whether you can stand up something that we've been concerned about here as we've been covering the story at the Tunisian- Libyan border.
I'm here at the airport tonight. There are about 1,500 -- 1,200 to 1,500 Bangladeshi migrants who are now being -- beginning to be evacuated from the border out to Daaka (ph) through this airport.
We've seen men -- migrant male workers from all over the world. There have been Ghanaians evacuated from the airport today and Vietnamese, for example, as well.
What we are now seeing a lot of is Libyans crossing the border. In fact, there's no clear trend as to whether anymore Libyans are crossing the -- or have crossed the border in the past week than that which would cross the border on a regular basis.
Are you hearing from people in Tripoli that they want to leave?
ROBERTSON: I think the predominant feeling is -- and in the sort of early days, when we were also on the border there with Tunisia there, the feeling was that there were some Libyans coming out. These were people who were sort of afraid in their villages, afraid in their homes, smaller towns, smaller places and were taking the opportunity to get out of the country.
I think the reason that we're not seeing an exodus here from Tripoli, for example, is because it's relatively stable. And I think for the most part, in the areas that we tend to go to around Tripoli -- and we've driven all the way to the border in the last few days -- the areas that we tend to go to seem to be firmly in government control. And the people there, although they're worried about what comes, it's not a big enough worry to cause them to uptick -- uproot their family and head for the border.
We are seeing, for example, sub-Saharan Africans here in Tripoli. I've spoken to a group of Mal -- workers from Mali yesterday who couldn't get out of the city. They tried, some of them, to get to Algeria, to the Algerian border, because they said they can cross from there directly to Mali. They hadn't been allowed to cross by the Algerians. So they were back in Tripoli petitioning their ambassador the help find them a way out.
And, of course, there's a lot of people still camped out at the airport here, a lot of African -- Africans here at the airport in Tripoli, waiting for flights, because their nations simply aren't sending flights to get them out of here.
So there are a lot of other nationals that would like to leave, that are not able to, for one reason or another.
But -- but for Libyans, it seems, until the -- until the terror is -- is essentially vested (ph) upon the places they live, they seem to be opting to stay put right now -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes. All right, interesting stuff.
And one of the big question marks, of course, at the border has been, over the past 72 hours or so, is why the significant slowdown in people looking to flee the country?
There has been talk -- nothing -- no evidence to suggest it as of yet -- but talk by the aid agencies here that there is a possibility that the Libyan army are now preventing people from making their way up to the -- certainly, on this side of the border, the Tunisian/Libyan border, and as I say, we can't stand that up at the moment, but it's certainly a concern for those who are working up at the border.
Nic, we're going to leave you for a moment. See if you can find out what's going on in that hotel, see if you can find out whether we're going to get hear from Moammar Gadhafi anytime soon. We appreciate what you're doing, and we'll be back to you, shortly.
Ben Wedeman is to the east of the country, close to a town called Benghazi. Ben, you've been listening to myself and Nic talking as, of course, we wait for the appearance of Moammar Gadhafi. What do you want to add at this point?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, I wasn't listening, Becky, because I was doing something completely different. But, obviously, everybody has been paying a lot of attention to Tripoli, listening to these rumors that there's some sort of deal afoot to allow Moammar Gadhafi to step down.
What we're hearing here is that, first of all, the opposition leaders are saying there is no deal, that it's all just sort of rumors being pushed along by the media. But here, there's such a level of mistrust for Moammar Gadhafi that no one really wants to make a deal with him.
The determination on this side of the country is that they want to see him go. When you speak to the fighters who are trying to make progress, push an offensive further west, they don't want to only see Moammar Gadhafi go, they're talking about, basically, hanging him in Bab al-Azizia, his compound in the Libyan capital.
There is a feeling that the situation here has gotten to the point of no return. There's no way anybody's going to allow for the central government in Tripoli to reassert its control until the head of that government goes. Becky?
ANDERSON: We're speaking to Ben Wedeman in Benghazi. For those who are not as familiar, perhaps, as you are with the lay of the land in Libya, Ben, just explain how strategic an area like that which you are in is for both the rebels and, indeed, of course, the government forces?
WEDEMAN: Actually, I'm not in Benghazi, I'm much further to the west of there, sort of the central area, where a lot of this fighting is going on, Becky, is between Brega and Ras Lanuf. And both of those towns have major refineries. The biggest refineries in the country.
And these are refineries that not only produce the petrol that fuels the cars of Libya, they also produce the natural gas that provides the power to run the power plants. Not in -- just in the east, but also in the west.
So, whoever controls these two towns, Ras Lanuf and Brega, has the possibility to, basically, strangle the other side. At the moment, the opposition is saying that they're not going to cut off the power to the west, to Tripoli. But the worry is that if central government forces, the Libyan army, is able to take control, re-take control, of Ras Lanuf and Brega, that they might do exactly that.
Because we understand from sources in Benghazi that when the revolt was just beginning in its first week, there was an order form Tripoli to cut the power to Benghazi to punish it for its revolt. So, the worry is that, if the Libyan army takes control of Ras Lanuf, of Brega, again, they may do exactly that. Becky?
ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman, there, reporting for you from outside of Tripoli.
OK, let's just bring you up to date on exactly what we know at this point. I want to bring up some pictures for you. Just moments ago, Moammar Gadhafi entered the hotel where the journalists in Tripoli have been staying who are there at the behest of the government, of course.
Nic Robertson is in amongst that throng and, as soon as we find out what Moammar Gadhafi intends to do, of course, we will bring it to you. Will he hold a news conference for the journalists there? Will he speak to them individually? At this point, we don't know, so we're waiting on information from Nic, and we'll get Nic back on this just as soon as we know.
As far as the potential for a deal, a negotiated exit deal that you may have heard reports about earlier on in the day for Moammar Gadhafi, well, neither the government nor the opposition are now prepared to stand that up. In fact, you heard Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson saying that it would be very unlikely, the opposition, now would be prepared to offer Gadhafi a negotiated exit deal.
The other thing we've been hearing, today, is the escalation of fighting, of air strikes. The west of Tripoli -- and I must remind you, when I talk about to the west of Tripoli, I'm talking about 30 miles from the capital, we are not talking about hundreds of miles, here. Just 30 miles to the west of the capital, evidence of further air strikes today on one of the roads leading into a strategic oil town.
And, as Ben suggested he's -- in and around that area, he's also seeing evidence of more air strikes against rebels who, where Ben is, at least, are being pushed back slightly. Although Ben says their determination to continue -- continues.
Those pictures that you are seeing, of course, are coming out of Tripoli for you. I want to bring in a guest for you, now. The head of the UNHCR, Antonio Guterres, is with me at Djerba Airport. With us, here, at Djerba Airport, of course, are thousands of male migrant workers.
I must say, before we start this conversation, I think the UNHCR and the other aid agencies and the Tunisian army have done the most remarkable job, and I think they should be thanked for what they've done by everybody around the world. Let's find out what your biggest challenges are at this point.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: At the present moment, bringing the Bangladeshis home. Today, 1,000 more arrived, and --
ANDERSON: Here at the airport.
GUTERRES: No, arrived --
ANDERSON: At the border.
GUTERRES: At the border. We were very successful, together with the National Organization for Migration and the support of the international community to bring back to Egypt the almost 50,000 Egyptians we had stranded at this border.
But now, the problem is even more complex. We have 13,000 Bangladeshis at this border, almost 4,000 at the Egyptian border. Bangladesh is very far away. We need flights, and we need the international community to put more flights at the disposal of the agencies working here. And we need countries to facilitate the way.
Sometimes, to ask for permission to go through a country, you need lots of bureaucracy. We need it to be much more simple.
ANDERSON: And let's explain just what's been going on at this airport today, for example. It just shows the efforts that the international community is making. There have been about 1200 Bangladeshi male migrant workers coming through here, today. There have been four flights that have taken off, and there's an expectation of four, five, or six flights going forward for the next ten days, which should get most of the Bangladeshis, of course, from the border.
Those flights have been sponsored by the Spanish today, by the Belgian military and, indeed, by the IOM. And one assumes that that will continue.
GUTERRES: I hope so, because today, a little bit more than 1,000 left, but 1,000 arrived at the border. So, we need to increase this air bridge to Dhaka. We need to have more support from the international community, and it's absolutely essential to bring these people home.
And it's very important to say, migrants that cross this border into Tunisia, they don't want to go to Europe, they don't want to go to a developed country. They want to go back home. And it's the -- I believe, the duty and the interest of the international community to support these people, to end their plight, and to allow them to go to their countries of origin.
ANDERSON: Stay with me for one moment. I think we just want to bring one of our reporters back in. Who do we want to bring in, at this point? Is it Nic Robertson, who's in -- ? Richard Roth. Let's get you to the United Nations and to Richard Roth in New York.
Richard, you know we're waiting on -- well, something from Moammar Gadhafi. He's in the hotel where the journalists are, Nic Robertson included, in Tripoli. And while we wait for that, let's get the very latest from you as to what the UN Security Council is doing at this point in and around, for example, a no-fly zone for Libya.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and having been a reporter in Libya and receiving word that Colonel Gadhafi might speak, you never know. It could be one minute, it could be hours, or you're taken somewhere else. Obviously, the situation is different now.
No-fly zone, actually brought up for the first time behind closed doors with the full Security Council. One of many options discussed in informal consultations by the 15 nations. It's inching along as an idea. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the United States being quoted in an interview as saying this no-fly zone or any international action has got to be coming from the international community, from the United Nations, not just from the United States.
China and Russia would be opposed, at least initially, regarding any instrument, such as a no-fly zone, that might in any way lead to military intervention.
There was some wiggle room, I observed, in some comments out of Beijing from the government spokesman there earlier today, saying that what's important is the restoration and the stability of Libya after any renewed international action.
We'll have to watch that very closely. Diplomatic niceties, diplomatic movements sometimes can be incremental. You have to look at one word or the other. But it's on the boards at the UN, where the United Kingdom and France are working on a draft resolution that is supposed to be a contingency plan, should there be a need to go in to use it.
What many of the countries, Becky, are waiting for is the Arab League and the African Union to authorize or request a no-fly zone. That's going to make it easier, provide political cover for other countries reluctant on the Security Council to say the regional nations want this, we should do this. Back to you.
ANDERSON: The UK has said today that it supports, in principle, of course, a no-fly zone. They're involved in the writing of the draft resolution. But they say that the legal basis for a no-fly zone over Libya would have to be very clear. What do we know about the way that this resolution is being drafted at this point?
ROTH: Well, they're not showing us the wording. It may be in its key element stage with attorneys. These words can change in a second once they go formally behind closed doors. Britain, the United States, they don't want another repeat of Iraq. They don't want the arguments, the controversies, whether the Security Council really authorized use of force. They've been down that road.
You can see that in Secretary Clinton's remarks, that it should come from the UN, not the United States. You also have had US -- NATO comments saying that a no-fly zone may not be that significant because there aren't as many flights. That's not really the issue. But another US military official saying that, indeed, helicopters are the target in any type of no- fly zone.
And you also heard talk that you need to take out Libyan air defenses, which would certainly be military intervention, in order to establish a safe no-fly zone. A lot of issues still to go. Very complex, said one Security Council diplomat.
ANDERSON: Libya, of course, has no representation at the UN, as far as I understand, at present, given that the UN representative from Libya resigned a couple of weeks ago. How involved, though, would those who have in the past worn the Libyan hat be in these negotiations, now? And these negotiations amongst those parties that are integral to any decision-making on military intervention?
ROTH: Well, actually, there is still representation by Libya at the UN. It's another continuing, interesting sidebar to this whole story. The Libyan government, Colonel Gadhafi asked last week for their own representative to come to New York to represent them after their own ambassadors turned on the government and pleaded for sanctions against their own nation to come to the aid of the Libyan people,.
My colleague, Whitney Hurst, just got off the phone with current diplomats, Ambassador Dabbashi, the deputy, he's still in place. They have not seen, they say, or heard of Ambassador Treki --
ROTH: Who was nominated by the Libyans. So, those people played an emotional role in getting UN action to come together, 50 nations, very rapidly, according to observers. Not traditional by UN standards to come together on a sanctions resolution.
The allies behind this new resolution may go down that same road and say, "The Arab League wants it, the African Union wants it, you should do it," and appeal to their sensitivities to prevent further violence against civilians.
ANDERSON: Richard Roth at the UN, Richard, thank you for that.
All right, let's just get you the very latest shots out of Tripoli. If you've just joined us, you will have missed the entrance of Moammar Gadhafi, and what an entrance it was, into the hotel in Tripoli where the journalists are staying at the behest of the government at present.
It's a government-sponsored -- it's an organized trip, there. The only way, in fact, let's be honest and be frank, that the international media can get a sense of what's going on in Tripoli.
These were the scenes just about 20, 25 minutes ago, when Moammar Gadhafi entered the hotel. Now, Nic Robertson is in amongst the throng of journalists and photographers who were there waiting for Gadhafi, and they've been waiting for eight hours, and they may wait longer.
He's inside the hotel, now, surrounded by his security and, at present, we have no idea whether he's going to speak to the -- to the press in its entirety, whether he'll speak to journalists one by one, or whether -- well, I, frankly, I guess he'd just decide to go again.
Anyway, that is the picture coming out of the hotel, and we'll, of course, get back to Nic Robertson in Tripoli just as soon as we get a sense of what is going on there.
I want to get us, though, to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, now. We've been talking about the possibility of a no-fly zone over Libya, the objectives of which, of course, Barbara, one assumes would be to protect civilians who are being hit by air strikes from government forces from the sky. And, indeed, at some point, looking for an effective regime change.
Difficult to say, at this point, whether Gadhafi's forces are targeting civilians or just targeting -- and I use "just" loosely there -- just targeting armed rebels. And that will be important, won't it, as they come to a decision about what the international community does next.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's right, Becky. President Obama here in Washington has made very clear he wants the international community to be able to act very rapidly if you have this nightmare scenario of the Gadhafi forces really opening up on Libyan civilians, if you start seeing wholesale bloodshed across the country.
This may come from air strikes, it may also come from ground action by forces loyal to Gadhafi. So, this is very problematic. That's one of the things they're looking at.
The question, perhaps, is as Moammar Gadhafi walks into that hotel in Tripoli at this hour, does he feel any of this military pressure from the international community?
We are hearing a lot of talk about planning, maybe no-fly zones, maybe have them, all kinds of options on the table. In fact, governments saying all options are on the table. But nobody making that decision to cross the line and move towards military action. That's a very serious matter.
Gadhafi knows that. He knows that there's very little stomach for action against him at this point. So, does he feel the pressure? Does he feel any pressure to change his ways? Does he feel any pressure to step down and leave without the threat of imminent military action?
That may be a very problematic thing. You're beginning to hear people say this could be a sustained conflict. It could all go on for some time.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr, this is Fionnuala Sweeney in London. We'll be going back to Becky in Tunis in a moment, at Djerba Airport in Tunisia. But let me ask you, one would think that US resources specifically are rather stretched at the moment, given events in Afghanistan and Iraq and so forth. What is being said at the Pentagon about the US military capability if it were to take part in some kind of coalition no-fly zone?
STARR: Well, let's give you the lay of the land if it starts right now. There are a number of US Navy warships in the Mediterranean with hundreds of Marines onboard, helicopters. They can begin to do operations if ordered.
There is a US Navy aircraft carrier with a full fighter air wing onboard nearby in the Red Sea. They could be called into action.
There are a number of aircraft, US aircraft, stationed in Europe, Germany, Italy, certainly could be moved further south into Italy, very easily within range of Libya. But again, what would they do, Fionnuala?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been sounding a real note of caution about a no-fly zone. As you look at that map, he says those aircraft would have to come across the Mediterranean, launch strikes against Libya's north coast along the Mediterranean, begin to bomb -- take out anti-aircraft sites, take out radar sites, begin 24/7 operations over Libya and really clamp down on Libyan forces.
What do you get out of that? Well, you could put the Libyan air force on the ground very rapidly. You could keep them from flying. Helicopters are another problem, though. They fly low, they fly at very slow speed, very hard to detect in a no-fly environment, very hard to go after them.
And again, though we see these high-profile Libyan air force attacks that are absolutely terrible against civilians, there's still a lot of ground action by the Libyan army. So a no-fly zone, is it really going to stop that? And Gates has been warning the world community that you are really talking about opening up a third conflict for the United States and for the allies.
Gadhafi knows that. He knows, my bet is, exactly where the world community stands on this. But the clock could be ticking against him. Again, the president says and the world community says this can't go on forever and that they won't tolerate violence against Libyan civilians. Fionnuala?
SWEENEY: And Barbara, as we await what we expect to be some kind of news conference from Colonel Gadhafi in Tripoli at a hotel where journalists have been waiting throughout the day, CNN USA, our sister network will take a break, and we will return to Becky in Djerba.
ANDERSON: Thanks very much, indeed. And we are still with Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, just how important is it to the US administration, for example, now, then, given what you've just said, that - - I don't think we have got Barbara Starr anymore. All right, we're going to move on. Barbara Starr was --
We have got Barbara. OK. Things moving a little bit around for us this evening as, of course, we wait for Moammar Gadhafi to decide what he's going to do. He's in the hotel where Nic Robertson is staying in Tripoli. He came in about 30, 35 minutes ago, and there he is there. We're waiting to find out whether he, indeed, decides to hold a news conference.
I've got Barbara Starr with me at the Pentagon. Barbara, give what you've just said about the prospects or not of a no-fly zone and how that would work, how important is it to the US that the Arab nations, the Arab League and the African Union are onboard with any decision about international military intervention at this point?
STARR: I think it's absolutely vital, Becky. And it's very interesting, in the last several days, now, you have seen many of the Arab nations turn against Gadhafi, statements coming out about him. I just got back from the Persian Gulf several days ago, and already you were beginning to hear government leaders out there -- pardon me -- talk about him as somebody that needed to go, that needed to step down.
The reason, of course, is it's so important is, after Afghanistan, after Iraq, after this ten-year period of US military -- the US military, if you will, leading the way in regime change in these countries, the US doesn't want to be seen as going it alone. They want to have both the Middle Eastern, the Arab countries, the African Union, onboard behind them.
They want to present this, if it comes to it, if it comes to military action, they want to present it as a coalition effort under the umbrella of the United Nations, NATO, and these other organizations. They do not want this to be a US operation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again, today, making that point very clear.
ANDERSON: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for you this evening, covering that side of the story.
Let's get back to Tripoli, now, and to Nic Robertson, who is in the hotel where Moammar Gadhafi walked in about 20, 25, 30 minutes ago. Now, Nic, what do we know at this point?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, behind me you can see the sort of orange-yellow curtains with some security guards standing there. Behind those curtains is a hall and a series of rooms, and one of those rooms or the hall is Moammar Gadhafi. We believe that he's giving an interview to a very small group of journalists.
There are more than 100 other journalists waiting outside here, where I am, to see what he will do when he comes out. Will he talk to us, or will he sneak out again as he came in a sort of a huge, chaotic scramble of security guards and people trying to get pictures of him and trying to get him to answer some very important questions, today.
One of the principle questions has been circulating, obviously, today, that question of whether or not he's really engaged in any kind of negotiations with the opposition that would lead to him stepping down. Of course, government officials have flatly denied it, calling it rubbish, calling it rebel propaganda.
But those are the questions that are on people's minds here as well as many others, like what has been happening in the fighting in Zawiya, 40 miles -- 40 minutes drive away from here? What exactly is happening in Misrata? What exactly are government forces doing there? Why can't we go and see and report from these places.
So, many questions are on people's minds but, right now, he's behind those curtains in one of the rooms, there, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right, that's right. OK, let's just remind our viewers of how he made his entrance, Nic. It was quite a scrum, wasn't it, as Moammar Gadhafi pulled up outside the hotel and came in with his security guards? Just talk us through some of that.
ROBERTSON: Well, we could see his cavalcade pull up about four or five, maybe six white off-road vehicles. He got out. He was sort of at the head of the group with a number of security guards all around him. And the security guards had sort of established a narrow sort of pathway for him to walk past what were many, many, dozens upon dozens upon dozens of cameras.
And, of course, that whole neat line fell apart as he came in as people tried to get the best picture they could. I landed up in the large flower pot, actually, and managed to get out of there and continue. But that's exactly how chaotic it was. People were trying to get in front of him.
And he seemed, I must say, this is a many who's been ruling this country, one of the largest countries in Africa, for 42 years. He seems an awfully diminutive figure in amongst his security and the cameras pressing around and pressing in on him.
And I couldn't help but feel this was some kind of a metaphor for the pressure he must feel from the international community and the situation internally that is in his country right now, as he's literally seeing it break -- break in two in front of him.
In fact, that's what his government officials have been saying, that the international community is trying to partition his country. He has been absolutely saying, for now, he will reunite it. Obviously, that's another key question we'll ask him if we can get the chance later, Becky.
ANDERSON: Nic, remind us, when was the last time we heard from Moammar Gadhafi, and what did he say?
ROBERTSON: Well, he was speaking last night, I believe, to a French television channel. He spoke late last week for about two -- no, more than two and half hours, about three hours or so on a live state broadcast, speaking across the whole spectrum of issues, reminding the nation how he leads the country -- or, rather, how he leads the people rather than the country, reminding people what he'd done for the country, how the country had become united under him, how he chased out the colonial powers and then, setting out his position towards the rebels, telling them that they could put their weapons down, setting out his position to the international community saying that if they wanted intervention, they should remember that that would cost thousands of lives.
He said if that's what was in their minds to do, then Libya was ready for it. It was fighting speak. This was big speech of a man, and this is what we've heard subsequently, the speech of a man who is insisting that he's staying in power.
We've heard, now, from President Obama and from his -- reports of his phone conversation with British prime minister David Cameron saying that one of the key issues, now, that should focus international thought on Libya is that Moammar Gadhafi needs to go, needs to step down.
This is diametrically opposed to what the Libyan leader is saying, has said, and that he intends to do in the future, Becky. How do you reconcile these two positions? How do you -- how does one -- or even, his own government, should they want to, ask him to step down? These are very, very difficult issues, and ones that nobody here is really coming up with an answer, yet.
But when you talk to people in the city, when you talk to intellectuals, here, I think very few of them disagree that Moammar Gadhafi's time is limited and, for the country's future, he has served it, they would say, greatly in the past. But now, it's time to move on, and they see the need for change.
And, of course, there are many others we talked to, here, would argue much more strongly than some of the intellectuals, who say this man is a vicious tyrant who's kept us oppressed and down, and it's time to retreat. Becky?
ANDERSON: Yes. Nic Robertson is at the hotel where Moammar Gadhafi is. He walked in about 40 minutes or so ago, now. We're not clear exactly what he proposes to do there, but there is a throng of journalists, Nic, of course, amongst them.
And we await Gadhafi's appearance from behind what is a screen or a curtain. You're looking at video of Gadhafi as he walked in. You may have seen it before, but it's quite something to see -- quite something to see as you -- as you see Gadhafi coming in through.
Let me bring you back to where we are, here, just in case you're wondering what I'm doing at what is, evidently, an airport. This is Djerba Airport, close to the Tunisian/Libyan border where we, for some days now, have been covering the story of the migrant workers who have been fleeing the fighting in Libya since February the 20th.
Behind me, about a thousand Bangladeshi migrant workers who were evacuated down from the UN's transit camp, today, on the border to here, awaiting a flight out to Dhaka. They have been a real priority over the past couple of days for the UNHCR and other aid agencies, here.
They really had very little when they got to the border, and very little support from their government. They have, though, got an overwhelming amount of support from the international community, now. Today, two flights sponsored by the Spanish, one sponsored by the Belgian military, and one sponsored by the IOM, the aid agency helping these guys that you see behind me.
What you -- you've got a whole load of baggage over here to my right, and beyond, you can't quite see, but there are male migrant workers hoping to get back to Dhaka tomorrow who will be sleeping tonight in this airport.
But let me tell you, it's a lot more comfortable here than it is up at the border. It is organized and it is calm at the UNHCR's transit camp at the border. It is quite a remarkable feat, given what they've had to deal with over the past week or so.
What we're seeing at the border has been very interesting, as well, and there's still a question mark as we close out the coverage, at least from here, for the time being on CNN, do consider this. We have no idea, nor do the aid agencies or the Tunisian army, who've also worked effectively here on the border, we have no idea as to what is going on on the other side of the border.
We've seen a -- the male migrant workers coming over the border in what is now being described only as a trickle. There were as many as a thousand an hour at one point, at the height of this.
The question is this. Has everybody who wants to flee fled, or is something going on on the other side of the border that is preventing people from leaving. There were more than a million and a half migrant workers in Libya when this fighting began. Only ten percent of them, and that is nearly 200,000, have made their way to either this or the Egyptian/Libyan border.
I'm Becky Anderson at Djerba Airport in Tunisia. You've been watching coverage live from here as we've been in Tripoli awaiting the appearance of Moammar Gadhafi, who is currently inside the hotel where Nic Robertson is staying. Stick with CNN. I'm going to get you to "The Situation Room," my colleagues, there, to continue our coverage.