Rebels fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are on the run Friday after suffering heavy setbacks across the country.
Rebels pulled back from the eastern oil port Ras Lanuf, with only small pockets of resistance left to fight for the city they once controlled. Rebels said pro-Gadhafi forces used air, land and sea attacks to take control of the area.
On Thursday, the rebel leadership acknowledged that the western town Zawiya, near the capital, Tripoli, was back in the hands of government loyalists after holding out for days.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says Libya has descended into a civil war. The U.N. says the conflict has killed more than 1,000 people and caused more than 250,000 people to flee the country.
Meanwhile, French oil giant Total said Friday Libya’s turmoil continues to slash oil production. Total chief executive Christophe de Margerie said the country’s 1.6-million-barrel-a-day oil production is now at between 200,000 and 300,00 barrels per day.
Despite the setbacks on the battlefield, the rebels in their stronghold Benghazi Thursday celebrated France’s recognition of the opposition administration. Hundreds of supporters took to the streets and carried signs praising and thanking France for recognizing their new interim governing council as the representative of the Libyan people.
Mr. Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, said Thursday the Libyan government will never surrender to the rebels and the Libyan people will never “welcome” NATO or U.S. forces.
In Washington, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said that given the advantage of superior troops and weapons, the Libyan leader likely will be able to fend off the rebels’ efforts to topple him.
Appearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Clapper said the rebels are at the mercy of the Libyan air force and dismissed the notion that Mr. Gadhafi is ready to step down or come to an agreement with the rebels.