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Azhar Slams Western Onslaught on Libya

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CAIRO – While Western warplanes are continuing their strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s military bases, Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, condemned foreign military intervention in the Muslim country, but reiterated support for the legitimate rights of the Libyan people’s revolution.

Al-Azhar “warns the United States and European countries against dividing Libya and destroying its natural and human wealth, as happened in Iraq,” the Cairo-based body said in a statement cited by Reuters on Wednesday, March 23

Western powers have launched military attacks into Libya to stop a deadly offensive by Gaddafi’s troops against anti-regime protestors.

Since Saturday, Western warplanes have flown more than 300 sorties over Libya and more than 162 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired against Gaddafi’s military bases.

The strikes came as part of a United Nations-mandated mission to protect Libyan civilians against government troops.

Libyan government officials said scores of Libyans died in the Western air strikes.

Despite criticizing the military action, Al-Azhar also denounced Arab governments who oppressed citizens for decades, saying their leaders should not stay in office if that would lead to more bloodshed.

“They should leave their posts. That is the least they can do to respond to their people, who have endured them and been patient for so long,” said the statement carried by Al-Ahram daily.

Al-Azhar, also Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, also condemned Arab and Islamic institutions for failure to address political and economic problems, which in turn led to the wave of popular uprisings shaking the Arab region.

The Arab backing for a no-fly zone was crucial for the passage of the United Nations resolution allowing foreign military intervention in Libya.

But no Arab country except Qatar has said it would contribute to the operation.

Last month, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed al-Tayyeb called upon all Libyans to disobey Gaddafi, whose heavy-handed crackdown on protesters led to an armed rebellion in several cities, especially in the east.

“Gaddafi has now become a tyrannical ruler who wages war on his own people,” Sheikh Mohamed al-Tayyeb said.

“That is why I ask the Libyan army and officials to refrain from obeying his orders or else they will be accomplices in shedding the blood of Libyans.”

Fighting between supporters and opponents of Gaddafi has reportedly left 6,000 people dead.

Defiant Gaddafi

Gaddafi has kept his defiant tone against the Western air strikes, vowing to emerge victorious.

“We will not surrender … We will defeat them by any means,” Gaddafi said in brief remarks in the capital Tripoli broadcast live on television.

“We are ready for the fight, whether it will be a short or a long one.”

“We will be victorious in the end.”

Foreign reporters in Tripoli were told the Libyan leader spoke at his Tripoli compound and was addressing supporters forming a human shield to protect him.

“I am staying here, my home is here, I am staying in my tent,” Gaddafi told his supporters who waved green flags. “I am here, I am here, I am here.”

The speech marked Gaddafi’s first appearance since March 15, although since then he has issued recorded audio remarks and granted interviews.

The embattled leader also called for an Islamic army to stand up against the West.

“All the Muslim armies have to take part in this battle against the crusader,” he said.

“There are protests all over the world in support of you – in Asia, in Africa, in America, in Europe.

The event was followed by fireworks in the Libyan capital. Crowds cheered and shot into the air in the city centre.

“There are demonstrations everywhere against this unjustified assault, which breaches the United Nations’ charter,” Gaddafi said of the international attacks.”This assault … is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history.”


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March 23, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Posted in World News

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