By William Ide
Two top U.S. lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to support the establishment of a provisional government in eastern Libya as international calls urging Moammar Gadhafi to step down grow and more towns come under opposition control.
Anti-government protest leaders in the city of Benghazi announced Sunday they have formed a “national council” in the eastern part of the country seized from forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
In western Libya, opposition forces gained control of Zawiya, a key city 50 kilometers from the capital, Tripoli.
Mohammed Amran is a resident of Zawiya. “Yes, Zawiya is free. Benghazi, Isdabya, Tobruk; yes, Derna,” he said.
Mr. Gadhafi dismissed his opponents on Sunday, saying they are only a small group surrounded by his forces. In a telephone interview with Serbia’s Pink television station, the Libyan leader condemned sanctions imposed over the weekend by the U.N. Security Council in connection with his government’s deadly crackdown on demonstrators.
The Security Council has agreed to refer the Libyan government’s actions to a permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate possible crimes against humanity.
U.S. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman say the Obama administration should impose a no-fly zone over parts of Libya to keep Moammar Gadhafi from using air strikes against his own people. And they say the United States should support Libya’s opposition.
Senator McCain spoke Sunday on NBC television’s “Meet the Press” program. “We should recognize a provisional government, perhaps somewhere in eastern Libya, perhaps Benghazi. We should make it clearer that we will provide assistance to that provisional government,” he said.
In China, police were out in force in several cities on Sunday to counter an online call by an overseas website to emulate pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
Senator McCain says China could be one of the countries to be caught up next in a widening wave of protests. “I’m not sure that these winds of change are going to be confined to blowing just in the Arab world and the Magrhreb. I think it’s going to happen all over the world. To wit, what’s happening in China and other countries around the world,” he said.
Before leaving Washington on Sunday for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that will focus on the situation in Libya, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the United States is reaching out to opposition groups in Libya. But she cautioned that the situation in Libya is very fluid.