Libya rebels claim tighter grip on city of Misrata

Rebels inside the Libyan city of Misrata said Monday that they drove Moammar Gadhafi's forces from another key point on the outskirts of the country's third-largest city.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court prosecutor on Monday asked judges to issue an arrest warrants for Gadhafi and two senior members of his embattled regime for crimes against humanity, accusing them of deliberately targeting civilians in their crackdown against rebels.

The prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi ordered, planned and participated in illegal attacks.

The judges in The Hague, Netherlands, must now evaluate the evidence before deciding whether to confirm the charges and issue international arrest warrants.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said he had no immediate comment.

The Libyan regime has suggested that the warrants are a ruse to give NATO more justification to attack Gadhafi and his supporters. It also could complicate efforts to find Gadhafi a haven outside Libya should he agree to stand down.

In Libya, the rebel forces appeared to have expanded their hold on Misrata.

A video posted Sunday on the Libyan rebels' Facebook page showed more than 200 SUVs and rebel vehicles at the southeastern gate of the city, which has become the main opposition stronghold in western Libya. It would give the rebels tighter control of the access points into the city.

The video showed rebels firing into the air in celebration.

Abdel Salam, a rebel militia fighter, told The Associated Press on Monday that opposition forces were able to advance on the location after NATO bombings in recent days. Reporters have had a difficult time reaching the city, and it was not possible to verify the claims independently.

Misrata has been the focus of an international aid effort to help thousands of civilians caught in the fighting.

In Benghazi, the rebel administration's military spokesman, Col. Ahmed Bani, told The AP that rebels defeated two brigades of Gadhafi forces that were based in the city of Zlitan, just 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, in weekend battles.

"In Zlitan, the revolutionaries have forced them (Gadhafi fighters) out of their camps — there were two big brigades — and are on the highway, fighting them," Bani said. He said the clashes were taking place Monday 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Zlitan.

He said "liberation army revolutionaries" from Zlitan and Misrata were coordinating their fighting Monday. It was not immediately clear if that meant the Libyan forces were caught between rebel units.

In Misrata last week, rebels pushed Gadhafi's forces out of missile reach on the western side of the city and took the airport to the south that had been a base used for shelling.

Some 1,000 people have been killed in the two-month siege of the rebel-held enclave, the only rebel foothold in western Libya outside Gadhafi's control. Most of the east is under the rebels.

In Moscow, Russia's foreign minister said Russia was ready to hold talks with the Libyan rebels to discuss peaceful settlement of the crisis.

Sergey Lavrov said Monday that a delegation of Libyan rebels had planned to come to Moscow for talks but canceled the trip for technical reasons. He voiced hope that they would be able to visit Moscow soon.


Associated Press reporters Diaa Hadid contributed from Tripoli and Maggie Michael from Cairo.