WRAPUP 10-Libyan forces attack western town, rebel push in east

* Gaddafi forces recapture much of Zawiyah near Tripoli

* Rebels say take Ras Lanuf

* Government forces bomb Benghazi arms depot, rebels say

(Edits, adds details)

By Mohammed Abbas

AJDABIYAH, Libya, March 4 (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi’s
forces captured part of a town in western Libya on Friday, but
rebels said they had taken the coastal oil town of Ras Lanuf,
extending the territory they control in the east of the country.

The fighting appeared to confirm the division of the
oil-producing desert state into a western area round the capital
Tripoli held by forces loyal to Gaddafi and an eastern region
held by those rebelling against his four-decade rule.

In Zawiyah, a town 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli whose
control by the rebels had embarrassed the government, “dozens
were killed and more were wounded” by pro-Gaddafi forces, said
Mohamed, a resident. “We have counted 30 dead civilians.”

The loyalist forces used grenade-launchers, heavy
machineguns and snipers on a hotel roof to fire at protesters
marching through town after Friday prayers to demand Gaddafi’s
resignation, Mohamed said.

Rebel fighters retreated but were still holding the central
Martyrs Square later in the day, a rebel spokesman said.

A Libyan government official said the town had fallen. “It’s
been liberated, maybe there are still some pockets (under rebel
control) but otherwise it’s been liberated.”

In the east, rebels said they had captured the airport of
Ras Lanuf and later that they had taken the oil town itself,
which lies on a strategic coast road 660 km (410 miles) from
Tripoli.

“We have taken Ras Lanuf 100 percent, Gaddafi’s forces have
all left,” rebel soldier Hafez Ibrahim said from the town. He
did not say who controlled the military base and oil terminal.

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A deputy foreign minister in Tripoli disputed this, telling
reporters that government forces still held the town.

Rebels have already seized control of much of the rest of
eastern Libya, the main oil-producing part of the country, in a
popular uprising centred on Benghazi, Libya’s second city.

The revolt against Gaddafi is the bloodiest yet against a
long-serving ruler in the Arab world, and follows the ousting in
the past weeks of the veteran presidents of both Tunisia and
Egypt — Libya’s western and eastern neighbours.

A rebel spokesman said pro-Gaddafi forces bombed an arms
depot — one of the biggest weapons stores in the region — on
the outskirts of Benghazi on Friday.

“A lot of people have been killed. There are many people in
the hospital. No one can approach, it’s still very dangerous,”
said a resident who would only identify himself as Saleh.

Security forces cordoned off the area, and a Reuters witness
said at least eight ambulances were seen ferrying casualties
from the scene. Windows were shattered in suburbs several
kilometres away, residents said.

News of the fighting pushed up U.S. crude prices to their
highest levels since September 2008, and Brent crude futures for
April delivery (LCOc1: Quote, Profile, Research) rose $1.36 to $116.17 a barrel.

The International Energy Agency said the revolt had halted
one million barrels per day (bpd) of Libya’s 1.6 million bpd oil
output. [ID:nWEB3662]The loss, due largely to the flight of
thousands of foreign oil workers, is a big blow to the economy.

POPULAR REVOLT

The upheaval has caused a humanitarian emergency on the
Tunisian border where tens of thousands of foreign workers have
fled to safety. An international airlift is under way, reducing
the number of refugees stranded in tented camps.

The rebels earlier told Reuters they were open to talks only
about Gaddafi’s exile or resignation, after attacks on civilians
that have provoked international condemnation, arms and economic
sanctions and a war crimes investigation.

“Victory or death … We will not stop until we liberate all
this country,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National
Libyan Council told supporters of the two-week-old uprising.

Western nations have called on Gaddafi to go and are
considering various options including the imposition of a no-fly
zone, but are wary about any offensive military involvement.

In Tripoli, shooting rang out across Tajoura district as
Gaddafi loyalists broke up a crowd of protesters seeking an end
to his long rule and shouting “Gaddafi is the enemy of God!”

The demonstrators spilled out of the Murat Adha mosque after
Friday prayers, and several hundred began chanting for an end to
Gaddafi’s four decades in power. Al Jazeera said up to 100
people were arrested, accused of helping the rebels.

A pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli’s central Green Square later
drew several hundred demonstrators, many waving green flags.

Earlier on Friday, rebel volunteers said a rocket attack by
a government warplane just missed a rebel-held military base
that houses an arsenal in the eastern town of Ajdabiyah.
(Additional reporting by Maria Golovnina, Michael Georgy,
Yvonne Bell and Chris Helgren in Tripoli, Tom Pfeiffer and
Alexander Dziadosz in Benghazi, Souhail Karam and Marie-Louise
Gumuchian in Rabat, Yannis Behrakis and Douglas Hamilton on
Tunisia border; Christian Lowe and Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers;
Writing by Tim Pearce; editing by Myra MacDonald)