Eyewitness: 'Lift embargo on arms and we'll finish it'

The UN arms embargo, coupled with Nato bombing raids, have crippled rebel forces' hopes of advancing to Tripoli, the commander of the Misrata rebel forces warned last night.

Rebels do not have the weapons to adapt from street-fighting to open field warfare, said Salah Badi. "The weapons we have are very, very old, and they are not fit for this war. We are crazy if we go forward into an open land war with these weapons," he said.

For the past four months, the west Libyan city's port has been the only means of bringing in essential supplies. But the Security Council embargo prevents them from bringing in the weapons they need. "If we had the same weapons as Gaddafi, we don't need Nato any more," said Commander Badi.

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Meanwhile, regime forces are being resupplied with weapons via Algeria, he said. "Gaddafi men are using long-range, very accurate rockets from Iran. The Algerian borders are open, and we are sure the Algerian government supports Gaddafi".

Forces loyal to Gaddafi attacked Misrata with renewed strength yesterday. At dawn, loyalists hit rebel defences at the western front line of Dafniya hard. For the first time since the front line there was set, one month before, loyalist infantry pushed forward.

Doctors dragged the injured on to ambulanced riddled with shrapnel scars from weeks of fighting, mortar rounds struck the mosque nearby. By early afternoon nine people were dead, and 51 wounded.

Cmdr Badi said the rebels no longer had the strength to advance on Tripoli. "Now the first goal is a defensive role, trying to keep weapons and ammunition that they have."

Cmdr Badi said Nato had told them to wait, that it was going to bomb Gaddafi forces. But it didn't, and in that time Gaddafi became stronger. "I am asking Nato to go on holiday, let us import weapons and we will finish everything," he said.

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