Obama says Gaddafi squeezed, Libyan rebels want more

Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:10pm GMT

By Michael Georgy and Caren Bohan

TRIPOLI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States and its allies are "tightening the noose" on Muammar Gaddafi, but Libyan rebels said their three-week-old insurrection could fail without a no-fly zone.

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday said they would consider all options to force leader Gaddafi to step down but stopped short of endorsing air strikes, a no-fly zone or other military-backed means to achieve that.

Obama, accused by critics of reacting too slowly, said he believed international sanctions, an arms embargo and other measures already in place were having an impact but also said a no-fly zone remained an option.

"Across the board we are slowly tightening the noose on Gaddafi. He is more and more isolated internationally," Obama said. "I have not taken any options off the table."

Soon after he spoke, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had extended a freeze on assets to Gaddafi's wife, four of his sons and four senior officials in his government.

Gaddafi's forces, with air supremacy and a big advantage in tanks, appeared to be maintaining the momentum on the ground.

The sound of explosions and small arms fire came from the oil port town of Ras Lanuf on Friday as government troops landed from the sea, backed by tanks and air power.

Rebels had advanced to the town of Bin Jawad about 60 km (38 miles) west of Ras Lanuf a week ago, but have been driven back across the strip of desert and scrub. Though out-gunned, they have kept up stiff resistance.   Continued...

<p>Anti-Gaddafi rebels prepare their surface-to-air (SAM)-7 rocket launcher in case of air strikes as pro-Gaddafi forces took over the city of Ras Lanuf March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih</p>
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