Battle Rages For Tripoli

 After a six-month conflict, rebels fighting to end Muammar Qaddafi's rule are reported to control most of Tripoli after advancing quickly into the Libyan capital.

The rebels reached central Green Square -- which they said would be renamed Martyrs Square -- after facing little opposition as they moved into the city from the west.

What began as a popular protest movement six-months ago now appears to be on the verge of ending Qaddafi's 42-year rule.  

Euphoric crowds across Libya have been celebrating the victory.

But rebels said pockets of resistance remained, and heavy gunfire was reported early on August 22 near Qaddafi's residence in central Tripoli. There were also reports of fighting in the south of the city.

Speaking to journalists in London, Libyan charge d'affaires Mahmud Nacua claimed that the rebels now control 95 percent of Tripoli and the country.

Nacua repeated the rebel National Transitional Council's commitment to democracy and human rights.

"We look forward to build[ing] a democratic country," he said. "We will have [a] constitution. We will have freedom in every part of the country and different fields of activities."

The whereabouts of Qaddafi remain unknown.

In audio messages on state television on Sunday, Qaddafi vowed to stay until the end, and called on his supporters to come to Tripoli to "save" the city. 

U.S. President Barack Obama said the battle had reached a "tipping point" and that the country was "slipping from the grasp of a tyrant." 

The British government said it was now clear that the "end is near" for Qaddafi, adding he "must go now to avoid any further suffering for his own people."

In Italy, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Qaddafi's "time is up" and that he should turn himself into the International Criminal Court. Poland, current EU president, said it welcomed the end of Qaddafi's rule.

A European Union spokesman was quoted as saying arrangements were being made for a post-Qaddafi administration in the North African country.

NATO, which has backed the rebels with a bombing campaign, said Qaddafi's rule was "crumbling", and offered to work with the Libyan people.

"Now is the time to create a new Libya -- a state based on freedom, not fear; democracy, not dictatorship; the will of the many, not the whims of a few," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels. "That transition must come peacefully. It must come now. And it must be led and defined by the Libyan people."

Earlier, a Qaddafi spokesman accused NATO of stepping up attacks to help the rebels.

"NATO has intensified its attacks on and around Tripoli, giving immediate and direct support for the rebel forces to advance into a peaceful capital of this great nation, and the death toll is beyond imagination," said Moussa Ibrahim at a late night press conference in Tripoli.

"The New York Times" reported U.S. drone activity in and around Tripoli had increased in recent days.

Overnight, more and more people took to the streets of Tripoli to tear down posters of the Libyan leader and cheer the news.  


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