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In Libya, Rebel Forces Push West

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

In Tripoli, the government of Moammar Gadhafi has called the loss of territory a tactical retreat. The Libyan government is also accusing the allied coalition that is bombing the country of overstepping its authority. Here's government spokesman Moussa - Ibrahim, speaking to reporters in Tripoli yesterday.

M: To try and destroy our army and occupy our ports, to make us in a weak position when it comes to negotiation is a trick that will serve no one.

HANSEN: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us on the line from the Libyan capital. Good morning, Lulu.

LOURDES GARCIA: Good morning.

HANSEN: What do you know so far about how far the rebels have advanced?

GARCIA: The complaint by the government here in Tripoli is, of course, that this is overreaching the U.N. mandate. It says that these airstrikes are no longer about protecting civilians but about decimating Gadhafi and his forces. Regime change essentially is what the government here is accusing the international coalition of wanting.

HANSEN: You drove in yesterday from the Tunisian border to Tripoli in the west of the country. What did you see?

GARCIA: And, of course, we saw anti-aircraft guns mounted on the backs of trucks, so they're mobile - some hidden in the trees, others near bridges - but all in and around population centers, towns and villages on the road in.

HANSEN: So, from what you're seen in Tripoli, where you are now, and the road in, what do you think the challenges are now for the Gadhafi regime?

GARCIA: And should the international coalition carry out airstrikes and want to hit targets in the west? That's also hard. The soldiers are inside the towns that I saw, among the civilian population.

HANSEN: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Tripoli. Thank you so much.

GARCIA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.