BENGHAZI, Libya — Libya's rebels will agree to a cease-fire if Moammar Gadhafi pulls his military forces out of cities and allows peaceful protests against his regime, an opposition leader said Friday as rebels showed signs that their front-line organization is improving.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the opposition's interim governing council based in Benghazi, spoke during a joint press conference with U.N. envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib. After meeting government officials in Thursday, Al-Khatib was visiting the rebels' de facto stronghold of Benghazi in hopes of reaching a political solution to the crisis embroiling the North African nation.
Abdul-Jalil said the rebels' condition for a cease-fire is "that the Gadhafi brigades and forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom."
The U.N. resolution that authorized international airstrikes against Libya called for Gadhafi and the rebels to end hostilities. Gadhafi announced a cease-fire immediately but has shown no sign of heeding it. His forces continue to attack rebels in the east, where the opposition in strongest, and have besieged the only major rebel-held city in the west, Misrata.
The city has been shelled by tanks and artillery for days, said a doctor in a Misrata hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals. Many people have been killed, including eight since Thursday, he said. He said Gadhafi brigades control the port and a main street, but rebels control the heart of the city.
Abdul-Jalil said the regime must withdraw its forces and lift all sieges.
He stressed the ultimate goal was Gadhafi's ouster.
"Our aim is to liberate and have sovereignty over all of Libya with its capital in Tripoli," he said.
The U.N. said Al-Khatib arrived Thursday in Tripoli.
Forces loyal to Libya's leader of nearly 42 years spent much of this week pushing the rebels back about 100 miles (160 kilometers) along the coast. On Friday, the opposition showed signs of gaining discipline on what has often been a disorganized battlefield.
Fighters said fresh forces were coming in, mostly ex-military, but also volunteers with not quite a month of training. The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were working in more organized units, in which military defectors were each leading six or seven volunteers.
The untrained masses who have rushed in and out of the fight for weeks with no apparent organization were barred from the front line. They stayed to the rear, to hold the line temporarily in case Gadhafi's forces attempt to flank the rebels.
"The problem with the young untrained guys is they'll weaken us at the front, so we're trying to use them as a backup force," said Mohammed Majah, 33, a former sergeant. "They have great enthusiasm, but that's not enough now."
Majah said the only people at the front now are former soldiers, "experienced guys who have been in reserves, and about 20 percent are young revolutionaries who have been in training and are in organized units."
The rebels also had mortars Friday, weapons they previously appeared to have lacked, and on Thursday night they drove in a convoy with at least eight rocket launchers — more artillery than usual.
The rebels' losses this week, and others before airstrikes began March 19, underlined that their equipment, training and organization were far inferior to those of Gadhafi's forces. The recent changes appear to be an attempt to correct, or at least ease, the imbalance.
It was not immediately clear where the front line was on Friday. On Thursday, the opposition had moved into Brega, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Ajdabiya, before Gadhafi's forces pushed them out.
- Texas' Perry says disparaging tweet unauthorized
- 'Guardians' stays atop cinemas amid worst...
- 'Deseret News National Edition': Common Core,...
- 5 takeaways from a punch-less summer box office
- Running again? Mitt Romney tells Hugh Hewitt...
- Feds eye stricter rules for railroad rights...
- Lawmakers: Islamic State groups wants to hit US
- Saudi king says terrorists will reach Europe...
- Running again? Mitt Romney tells Hugh... 39
- 10 things to know about corporate... 32
- Obama tamps down prospect of strikes in... 16
- Winning plaintiffs in 3 states want... 14
- Saudi king says terrorists will reach... 13
- It's about time the government... 12
- Freelancers and millennials help usher... 11
- House, Senate intel chiefs press White... 10