NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/3/2011 12:46:39 AM ET 2011-03-03T05:46:39

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the president of the Arab League agreed to a peace plan from Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to end the crisis in the North African country, a news network said on Thursday.

Chavez spoke to Gadhafi on Tuesday and laid out his proposal to seek a negotiated solution to the violence in Libya, Venezuela's Information Minister Andres Izarra said, without giving more details.

A senior government official contacted by Reuters said he did not know what Gadhafi had said about Chavez's idea to send representatives from several countries to Libya.

However, news network Al Jazeera said in a broadcast that during the call Gadhafi had accepted the plan, which would involve a commission from Latin America, Europe and the Middle East trying to reach a negotiated outcome between the Libyan leader and rebel forces.

Citing senior government sources, Al Jazeera's Caracas Correspondent Dima Khatib said via her Twitter feed that Venezuela's foreign minister had spoken with Arab League President Amr Moussa, who also agreed to the plan.

Earlier in the day Moussa took a tough line on Libya, saying the Arab League could impose a "no-fly zone" there to stop blood being spilled.

Chavez said the international community should seek a non-military solution to the conflict and accused the United States of exaggerating Libya's problems to justify an invasion.

A former soldier who survived massive protests and a coup against him in 2002, Chavez is a close friend of Gaddafi and has visited him several times.

Despite the report, oil prices held near 2-year highs on Thursday due to fears unrest could spread to other OPEC producers.

U.S. crude rose 0.2 percent to $102.47 a barrel, not far from the recent peak at $103.41, while Brent crude was also 0.2 percent higher at $116.63, closing in on the Feb. 24 high near $120.

Troops routed in attack
Reports of the offer's acceptance came a day after r

ebel forces routed troops loyal to Gadhafi in a fierce, topsy-turvy battle over an oil port, scrambling over the dunes of a Mediterranean beach through shelling and an airstrike to corner their attackers. The daylong fighting blunted the regime's first counteroffensive against opposition-held eastern Libya.

At least 10 anti-Gadhafi fighters were killed and 18 wounded in the battle over Brega, Libya's second largest petroleum facility, which the opposition has held since last week. Citizen militias flowed in from a nearby city and from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi hours away to reinforce the defense, finally repelling the regime loyalists.

Image: Burned out pro-Gadhafi vehicle in Brega
Hussein Malla  /  AP
Anti-Gadhafi forces take back an area in Brega, Libya, on Wednesday.

In Tripoli Wednesday, Gadhafi vowed that "we will fight until the last man and woman." In a long, rambling speech he also warned that thousands of Libyans would die if U.S. and NATO forces intervened.

"We will not accept an intervention like that of the Italians that lasted decades," Gadhafi said, referring to Italy's colonial rule early in the 20th Century. "This will lead to a bloody war and thousands of Libyans will die if America and NATO enter Libya."

The attack on Brega began just after dawn, when several hundred pro-Gadhafi forces in 50 trucks and SUVs mounted with machine guns descended on the port, driving out a small opposition contingent and seizing control of the oil facilities, port and airstrip.

But by afternoon, they had lost it all and had retreated to a university campus 5 miles away.

There, opposition fighters besieged them, clambering from the beach up a hill to the campus as mortars and heavy machine gun fire blasted around them, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. They took cover behind grassy dunes, firing back with assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers. At one point a warplane struck in the dunes to try to disperse them, but it caused no casualties and the siege continued.

"The dogs have fled," one middle-aged fighter shouted, waving his Kalashnikov over his head in victory after the Gadhafi forces withdrew from the town before nightfall. Cars honked their horns and many people fired assault rifles in the air in celebration.

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In other developments Wednesday:

  • Rebels ask for foreign airstrikes. In Benghazi, Libya's second largest city and the stronghold of the rebellion in the east, a self-declared "interim government council" formed by the opposition called on foreign nations to carry out airstrikes on non-Libyan African mercenaries that Gadhafi has used in his militias to put down the uprising. Council spokesman Abdel-Hafiz Hoga said the council urged airstrikes on the "strongholds of the mercenaries .... used against civilians and people." The council was announced by opposition leaders headed by Gadhafi's former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who joined the uprising.
  • Arrests in Tripoli. Pro-Gadhafi militiamen launched a wave of raids in Tripoli to snatch people who participated in anti-government protests over the past week after identifying them in photos and video, several witnesses said. Dozens were arrested at their homes in dawn raids in the restive neighborhood of Tajoura, said one resident, whose two brothers were among those taken. "Seventeen cars with armed militia in uniform, they stormed the houses of my brothers. They blew the locks off the doors, they took the jewelry of my sister-in-law, money and my brothers," the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
  • Immigrants airlifted out. The turmoil has also sparked a massive exodus of 180,000 people — mostly foreign workers — who have fled to the borders, U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. European nations and Egypt launched emergency airlifts and sent ships to handle the chaotic flight. More than 77,000 so far have crossed into Egypt, and a similar number into Tunisia — with about 30,000 more waiting at that western border. Some Somali and Eritreans workers around Benghazi are feeling "hunted" as they are being mistaken for mercenaries hired by Gadhafi, she said, while Gadhafi forces appear to be targeting Egyptians and Tunisians, apparently believing they triggered the uprising. "(There are) many, many terrified refugees" in Tripoli who are too afraid to move for fear they will be killed, Fleming told AP.
  • U.S. warships near. Two U.S. amphibious assault ships, the USS Kearsarge, which can carry 2,000 Marines, and the USS Ponce entered the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean. The destroyer USS Barry moved through the canal on Monday as part of efforts to increase diplomatic and military pressure on Gadhafi to quit.


Brega is the second-largest hydrocarbon complex in OPEC-member Libya. Amid the turmoil, exports from its ports have all but stopped with no ships coming to load up with crude and natural gas. Crude production in the southeastern oil fields that feed into the facility has been scaled back because storage facilities at Brega were filling up. General Manager Fathi Eissa said last week the facility has had to scale back production dramatically from 90,000 barrels of crude a day to just 11,000.

The unrest in Libya — which ranks about 17th among world oil producers and has Africa's largest proven oil reserves — has sparked a major spike in world oil prices. Overall crude production has dropped from 1.6 million barrels per day to 850,000.

Gadhafi's regime has been left in control of Libya's northwest corner, centered on Tripoli, but even there several cities have fallen into rebel hands after residents rose up in protests, backed by mutinous army units and drove out Gadhafi loyalists.

In recent days, loyalists succeeded in regaining two of those towns — Gharyan, a strategic town in the Nafusa mountains south of Tripoli, and Sabratha, a small town west of the capital.

But opposition fighters successfully repulsed attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces on several others:

  • The key city of Zawiya outside the capital;
  • Misrata, Libya's third largest city east of Tripoli; and
  • Zintan, a town further southwest in the Nafusa mountains.

The regime may be bringing in more forces from regions it still dominates in the sparsely populated deserts in the southwest.

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In his speech Wednesday, Gadhafi lashed out at international moves against his regime, including the freezing of his and other Libyan assets abroad — an act he called "piracy" — and efforts by Europe to send aid to opposition-held Benghazi.

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He also threatened to bring in Chinese and Indian companies to replace Western companies in Libya's oil sector if the West keeps up its pressure on him. European firms are heavily involved in Libya's oil production.

Gadhafi insisted he was not in charge and so there was no president to be ousted by the revolt, as happened in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. He claimed the country was run by people's committees.

"It's the people who exercise their own authority. The Libyan people are free to exercise power and authority in the manner they deem fit," he said.

No-fly zone 'challenging'
Diplomats said Wednesday that some nations are talking about a no-fly zone modeled on those used over the Balkans in the 1990s.

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But NATO has already said that any such move would require a clear mandate from the U.N. Security Council, and that is unlikely because Russia, which has veto power in the council, has already rejected the idea.

Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate hearing that imposing a no-fly zone would be a "challenging" operation. "You would have to remove air defense capability in order to establish a no-fly zone, so no illusions here," he said. "It would be a military operation."

However, Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged consideration of a no-fly zone and said Gadhafi must go.

"The people of Libya do not ask for or need foreign troops on the ground. They are committed to doing what is necessary, but they do need the tools to prevent the slaughter of innocents on Libyan streets and I believe the global community cannot be on the sidelines while airplanes are allowed to bomb and strafe," he said. 

"A no fly-zone is not a long-term proposition and we should be ready to implement it as necessary," he added.

NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Gadhafi forcefully strikes back at rebels

  1. Closed captioning of: Gadhafi forcefully strikes back at rebels

    >> now we turn to news overseas in an effort to form a free country . it's been a wild 24 hours in libya. moammar gadhafi has made it clear he's not going without a fight and there was some fierce fights overnight as he tried to take back parts of eastern libya from the rebels who took it from him. this was his first offensive against the fighters holding that part of the country, which by the way, is where the oil is and his forces tried to move in on two key towns. we have the story covered tonight with our team on the ground in the region. we want to begin with nbc's stephanie goss. she's in benghazi, the unofficial operating base for the anti- gadhafi rebels. stephanie , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. gadhafi wasn't looking to retake a town. he was going after the oil. brega is one of the most important oil ports in the country, the surprise attack worked, at first. today gadhafi struck back at the rebels in the east. this youtube video claims to show the raging battle in brega . militia forces moved in at dawn with suvs and mounted machine guns. one opposition fighter in the small oil town described a massacre.

    >> a terrible situation. we went there nearly hundreds, just maybe 20 got back and returned alive.

    >> the ground attack was followed by air strikes , repeatedly hitting a weapons depot in a nearby town. while injuries from the gun battle filled the local hospital, this 6-year-old boy was caught in the cross fire .

    >> it's a massacre right now. it's a massacre.

    >> but these aren't peaceful protesters. this is a rebel fighting force , disorganized, inexperienced and heavily armed. when news came that brega had been attacked, they rushed to the fight and pushed back gadhafi 's militia. many signed up in the town of benghazi which has become the rebel capital of the east. we will win or we will die, this man says. the difficult part will be harnessing that energy and using it it create an effective fighting force . there have been 5,000 people that have been scripted so far. most have never served in the military and never fired a gun. formal military officers have started the training while munitions are stockpiled around town and weapons are tested. on the streets, demonstrations continue with defiance and in an open contempt of moammar gadhafi that was once unthinkable. stephanie goss, nbc

Photos: Moammar Gadhafi

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  1. Col. Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Sept. 27, 1969, after leading a military coup that toppled King Idris. Gadhafi has maintained his rule over Libya for more than four decades since the coup. Gadhafi was killed in Sirte on Oct. 20 as revolutionary forces took the last bastion of his supporters. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Gadhafi, left, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, right, arrive in Rabat, Morocco, in December 1969 for the Arab Summit Conference. (Benghabit / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Col. Gadhafi, left, jokes with a group of British hippies in Tripoli in July 1973. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gadhafi was purportedly a major financier of the Black September movement, a band of Palestinian militants. Its members perpetrated the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. One of the Black September guerrillas who broke into the Olympic Village is seen in this picture. (Keystone via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gadhafi during the summit of the Organization of African Unity on Aug. 4, 1975, in Kampala, Uganda. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Flowers are laid at the memorial to Yvonne Fletcher, a British police constable who was shot dead by terrorists in April 1984 while on duty during a protest outside the Libyan embassy in London. Fletcher's death led to an 11-day police siege of the embassy and a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Libya and the United Kingdom. (Fox Photos via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Gadhafi and his second wife Safiya wave to the crowd upon their arrival in Dakar, Senegal, for a three-day official visit on Dec. 3, 1985. Gadhafi has eight biological children, six by Safiya. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, fourth from left, and West Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, fifth from left, inspect the damage following an April 5, 1986, bombing at a Berlin discotheque frequented by American serveicemen. Libya was blamed for the blast, which killed three and injured more than 200. Then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi. (Wolfgang Mrotzkowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. French policemen and army soldiers unload crates of arms and ammunition seized aboard the Panamian merchant ship Eksund on Nov. 3, 1987 at Brest military port in France. A huge supply of arms and explosives purportedly supplied by Libya and destined for the Irish Republican Army was found aboard the vessel. (Andre Durand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. This Dec. 22, 1988, photo shows the wreckage of the Pan Am airliner that exploded and crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people - most of them Americans. Gadhafi has accepted Libya's responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. Libya's ex-justice minister was recently quoted as telling a Swedish newspaper that Gadhafi personally ordered the bombing. (Letkey / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, right, welcomes Gadhafi upon his arrival at Tunis airport on Jan. 10, 1990. (Frederic Neema / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is escorted by security officers in Tripoli on Feb. 18, 1992. Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. (Manoocher Deghati / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, accompanies Gadhafi on a tour at the pyramids of Giza on Jan. 19, 1993. (Aladin Abdel Naby / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian border policeman counts passports belonging to Palestinians waiting at the post in Salloum for transit to the Gaza Strip on Sept. 12, 1995. Families were stranded at the border with Libya after Gadhafi decided to expel 30.000 Palestinians, reportedly in order to call attention to the political situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. (Amr Nabil / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Libyan women bodyguards provide security for VIPs during a military parade in Green Square on Sept. 1, 2003, to mark the 34th anniversary of Gadhafi's acension to power. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Family members of people killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, read documents on Sept. 12, 2003, as the U.N. Security Council votes to lift sanctions against Libya for the 1988 bombing. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, flew to Libya in 2004 to hold talks with Gadhafi inside a Bedouin tent. Here, Blair and and Gadhafi stroll to a separate tent in Tripoli for lunch during a break in their talks. Blair's role was particularly vital in Gadhafi's international rehabilitation. He praised the leader for ending Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons program and stressed the need for new security alliances in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (Stefan Rousseau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. U.S. President George W. Bush looks at material and equipment surrendered by Libya, during a tour of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on July 12, 2004. Bush officially lifted the U.S. trade embargo against Libya on Sept. 20, 2004. (Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. View of the remains of Gadhafi's bombed-out headquarters, now turned into a living memento, inside his compound in Tripoli on Oct. 15, 2004. The sculpture in the center represents a golden fist grabbing a U.S. jet fighter. U.S. jets bombed Tripoli, killing Gadhafi's adopted 4-year-old daughter, in April 1986 in retaliation for the Berlin discotheque bombing. (John Macdougall / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by Gadhafi in Tripoli on July 25, 2007. Sarkozy arrived for a meeting with the Libyan leader a day after the release of six foreign medics from a Libyan prison. (Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Gadhafi's son Saif, center, attends a ceremony in the southern Libyan city of Ghiryan on Aug. 18, 2007, to mark the arrival of water from the Great Manmade River, a project to pipe water from desert wells to coastal communities. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Gadhafi looks at a Russian-language edition of his book "The Green Book" during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 17, 2008, in Tripoli. Putin was in Libya for a two-day visit to rebuild Russian-Libyan relations. (Artyom Korotayev / Epsilon via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Gadhafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the eastern city of Benghazi on Libya's Mediterranean coast on Aug. 30, 2008. Berlusconi apologized to Libya for damage inflicted by Italy during the colonial era and signed a $5 billion investment deal by way of compensation. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gadhafi poses with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior to a meeting in Tripoli on Sept. 5, 2008. Rice arrived in Libya on the first such visit in more than half a century, marking a new chapter in Washington's reconciliation with the former enemy state. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gadhafi attends the closing session of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, on March 30, 2009. (Marwan Naamani / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Gadhafi waves after delivering a speech during a meeting with 700 women from the business, political and cultural spheres on June 12, 2009, in Rome. The Libyan strongman drew cheers and jeers when he criticized Islam's treatment of women but then suggested it should be up to male relatives to decide if a woman can drive. (Christophe Simon / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. U.S .President Barack Obama shakes hands with Gadhafi during the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 9, 2009. (Michael Gottschalk / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, top left, is accompanied by Seif al-Islam el-Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader, upon his arrival at the airport in Tripoli on Aug. 20, 2009. Scotland freed the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds, allowing him to die at home in Libya despite American protests that he should be shown no mercy. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, top center, listens in apparent misery as Gadhafi speaks on Sept. 23, 2009, at U.N. headquarters in New York. It was Gadhafi's first appearance before the U.N., and he emptied out much of the chamber with an exhaustive 95-minute speech in which he criticized the decision-making structure of the world body and called for investigations of all the wars and assassinations that have taken place since the U.N.'s founding. (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Gadhafi greets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the plenary session at the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island on Sept. 27, 2009. Chavez and Gadhafi urged African and South American leaders to strive for a new world order countering Western economic dominance. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Gadhafi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a group picture of Arab and African leaders ahead of the opening of the second Arab-African summit in the coastal town of Sirte, Libya, on Oct. 10, 2010. Ben Ali and Mubarak were driven out of power by popular revolts in 2011. (Sabri Elmehedwi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Gadhafi is followed by members of the press in Tripoli before making a speech hoping to defuse tensions on March 2. Gadhafi blamed al-Qaida for creating turmoil and told applauding supporters there was a conspiracy to control Libya and its oil. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyan rebels step on a picture of Gadhafi at a checkpoint in Tripoli's Qarqarsh district on Aug. 22. Libyan government tanks and snipers put up a scattered, last-ditch effort in Tripoli on Monday after rebels swept into the heart of the capital, cheered on by crowds hailing the end of Gadhafi's 42 years in power. (Bob Strong / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A man in Tripoli holds a photo said to be of Moammar Gadhafi after the announcement of the former leader's death, Oct. 20, 2011. Gadhafi was killed when revolutionary forces overwhelmed his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after the regime fell. (Abdel Magid Al-fergany / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years
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    Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya

Timeline: Recent Middle East unrest

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