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Libyan rebel leader criticizes NATO operation

April 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Libyan rebel leader is criticizing NATO's operation in the country, saying the alliance has been slow to launch airstrikes against government troops.

The rebels are defending their positions against Moammar Gadhfai's forces near the oil town of Brega, but one leader says NATO isn't doing enough.

"NATO is not helping us. Gahdafi still gets ammunition and supplies to his forces, that's why he is pushing us back," said Pvt. Mohammed Abdullah, a 30-year-old former member of Gadhafi's army who has joined the rebel side. "We don't know what he would be able to do if there are no airstrikes."

He says there's an overly bureaucratic process, and sometimes airstrikes don't happen until eight hours after rebels have communicated targets.

NATO says the air operation is working, taking out 30 percent of Gadhafi's military capacity.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe defended NATO airstrikes, saying it has become hard to distinguish Gadhafi's forces from civilians and rebel forces.

"The military situation in the field is confused and uncertain and the risk of engulfing exists," he said in a radio interview.

NATO last week took control over the international airstrikes that began March 19 as a U.S.-led mission. The airstrikes thwarted Gadhafi's efforts to crush the rebellion in the North African nation he has ruled for more than four decades, but the rebels remain outnumbered and outgunned and have had difficulty pushing into government-held territory even with air support.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.