Libya rebels brace for new push to Tripoli

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Libyan rebel forces massing southwest of Tripoli were gearing up for a new advance to the capital in the next two days after they were pushed back by government troops earlier in the week, a rebel military spokesman said Saturday.

"Obviously, we had a strategic withdrawal because of the battlefield situation and the intensity of bombardment that the revolutionary forces were receiving," rebel military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani told a press conference in Benghazi.

"But we hope to carry out a new advance (to Tripoli) within the next 48 hours."

On the western front, a few days ago, rebel troops had advanced to just 80 km away from the capital, the stronghold of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but were forced to retreat on Friday after coming under heavy rocket fire from government forces.

Speaking in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Bani said insurgents fighting in western Libya had enough supplies and manpower to regroup for a counterattack and required no reinforcements from the east for the moment.

"Our people in the western parts have enough men, they have no shortage of ammunition and definitely no lack of bravery," he said. "So there isn't any particular reinforcement being sent to the west."

In the east, Libya's frontline near the key oil town of Brega has been deadlocked for weeks, but Bani said rebel forces would soon start advancing from Ajdabiyah to Brega.

Libyan leader Gaddafi on Friday condemned continued NATO air raids on Libya, and called on his supporters to seize the weaponry that France has airdropped to rebel forces and march toward rebel-held towns including Misrata.

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