Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gaddafi Plays Chess w/ Russian

Gaddafi, son play chess with Russian eccentric


Published Monday, June 13, 2011

President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told him over a game of chess in Tripoli on Sunday he had no plans to stand down or leave his country.

As fighting between Gaddafi's forces and Libyan insurgents raged across western Libya, the Russian eccentric who once claimed he hosted extraterrestrials, also sat down for a game of chess with Gaddafi's eldest son Mohammad and the two played the Sicilian defence, Russia's Interfax news agency said.

"The meeting [with Muammar Gaddafi] lasted around two hours, we played some chess with Gaddafi," Ilyumzhinov, who is on a visit to Tripoli in his capacity as FIDE president, told Interfax.

"Gaddafi stated that he is not going to leave Libya, stressing that it is his motherland and a land where his children and grandchildren died. He also said that he does not understand which post he needs to step down from."

"I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up," Ilyumzhinov quoted Gaddafi as telling him.
Ilyumzhinov, who also met with foreign and education ministers, said he saw a lot of destruction in Tripoli.

He expressed his condolences to Gaddafi over the death of his son and grandchildren and said he was shown a house hit by five bombs where the leader's family members died.

Ilyumzhinov was the head of Russia's Buddhist region of Kalmykia between 1993 and 2010. He famously claimed that he had met aliens on the balcony of his apartment in Moscow, prompting demands to explain his behaviour.

The West is involved in the bombing campaign against Gaddafi's forces, a conflict Russia has offered to mediate. The Kremlin's special representative to Africa, Mikhail Margelov, visited rebels in Libya's east this week and is now preparing a trip to Tripoli.

Margelov said he would be ready to meet with Gaddafi but had not so far received any such orders from the Kremlin, which has repeatedly called on the Libyan leader to stand down for the sake of peace of the country.

Muammar Gaddafi's forces come under fire from the west
Rebels launch attack on strategic town of Zawiya as Russian envoy says 'clock is ticking' for Libyan leader

Xan Rice in Tripoli and Chris Stephen in Misrata, Sunday 12 June 2011 21.47 BST

Muammar Gaddafi's increasingly stretched army is struggling to crush a surprise rebel offensive in Zawiya, a strategic town just 30 miles west of Tripoli, while fighting has also been reported in the largest town in the Libyan Sahara.

At least 13 rebel fighters and civilians were killed in Zawiya on Saturday after the attack on government forces.

Guma el-Gamaty, a London-based opposition spokesman, said on Sunday several hundred rebels remained "well-protected and entrenched" in the western part of the town and also controlled a section of the coastal highway to Tunisia that serves as the main supply route for Tripoli. Loyalists forces were still in charge of the town centre and have large numbers of snipers there, he said by phone from London.

The government acknowledged that fighting had occurred in Zawiya, which has a major oil refinery, but said the clashes were minor and loyalist forces remained in complete control.

It was not possible to verify the conflicting information since foreign journalists in Tripoli are not permitted to leave the capital.

Zawiya first rebelled against the Libyan regime in March, but the uprising was crushed when the army sent in tanks and bulldozers, even razing the town's mosque. If sustained, the town's second rebellion will be of major significance, because it will mean that Gaddafi's forces are engaged in fighting in all three directions outside the capital, including Misrata, 130 miles to the east and a string of towns in the Nafusa mountains, about 60 miles to the south.

"The strategy is to push on Tripoli from all three sides, inspiring people there and putting great pressure on the army," said el-Gamaty, the UK coordinator for the rebel's National Transitional Council (NTC).

A businessman in Tripoli, who requested anonymity for his own safety, said the strain on the regime appeared to be showing, with security tightening sharply in Tripoli in recent days. Vehicles entering suburbs known to be restive at night were being checked by up to six times at a single roadblock by police officers, the businessman said. Gaddafi remains in hiding in the city with his family, and appears not to be responding to international diplomatic efforts offering him a safe exit from power.

However Libyan state television on Sunday broadcast pictures of Gaddafi meeting the president of the international chess federation.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also a former Russian provincial governor, as saying he played a game of chess in Tripoli on Sunday with Gaddafi.

He said the Libyan leader told him he had no intention of leaving the country.

Following a visit to Benghazi, the headquarters of the NTC in eastern Libya, Russia's special envoy to Africa, Mikhail Margelov told Russian television that the "clock was ticking" for Gaddafi, but said there were precedents for a solution where the Libyan leader might be able "to live happily as a private individual in his own country and nobody touches him". Libyan state television broadcast pictures of Gaddafi meeting the president of the international chess federation.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also a former Russian provincial governor, as saying he played a game of chess in Tripoli with Gaddafi.

Besides Zawiya, the NTC also reported skirmishes in parts of Sahba, a garrison town around 500 miles south of Tripoli that is considered a Gaddafi stronghold. Anti-government protests have reportedly been ongoing there for several days. Regarded as the gateway to the Sahara, Sabha is also a key junction for routes to Algeria, Niger and Chad that could be used by senior regime officials looking to escape the country, according to rebels.

They remain hopeful that Nato's aerial operation targeting Gaddafi's military arsenal might wear it down to the extent that rebel fighters may soon be able to push through government defences on the various fronts. If and when that happens, the main thrust on Tripoli is likely to come from the rebels in Misrata, Libya's third biggest city, perhaps reinforced by a larger opposition force currently holding its position hundreds of miles east near the town of Brega, which is still in government hands.

Misrata's fighters are battle-hardened after defending their city for nearly four months, and commanders claim that increasingly numbers of government troops are deserting. But they are aware of the shortcomings of their all-infantry force against the heavy weapons of loyalist forces. In an artillery barrage on Friday, the rebels lost 31 men, and suffered 120 injuries. Rebels say the 32nd Brigade, an elite force reportedly controlled by Gaddafi's son, Khamis, is garrisoning Zlitan, the town blocking any advance from Misrata on Tripoli.

Meanwhile, in the Nafusa mountain range to the south of Tripoli, government forces are continuing their attacks on the mainly Berber communities who have taken control of numerous small towns near the road that runs towards Tunisia. In the rebel-controlled town of Zintan, five people were killed during rocket attacks on Sunday, according to a rebel spokesman. More than 20 people were injured.

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