Leaders and foreign ministers of some 40 countries are meeting in London to discuss the next military steps in Libya. Rebels continue to battle fighters loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi for control of coastal cities. (This post will refresh every 30 minutes unless we jump in with breaking news.)
Update at 7:05 p.m. ET. Retreat:
CNN's Ben Wedeman has been keeping up with advances by Gadhafi forces via Twitter. He reports that Gadhafi forces have retaken Ras Lanuf and that the city of Misrata, under control of the rebels, is under siege from government forces.
The Pentagon said today that allied attacks have continued: 115 air strike missions were flown and 22 Tomahawk missiles were launched in the past 24 hours.
We're pausing our live blog, now, but we'll back early tomorrow with the latest.
Update at 6:59 p.m. ET. Is Arming Rebels Legal Under U.N. Resolution?:
The Guardian reports that at the end of a conference on Libya in London, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that arming rebels would be legal under UN resolution 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone over Libya.
The west's main Arab ally, Qatar, also said providing weapons to Gaddafi's opponents should be considered if air strikes failed to dislodge him. The Gulf state's prime minister, Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, said the effect of air strikes would have to be evaluated in a few days, but added: "We cannot let the people suffer for too long."
A prolonged conflict appeared more likely after pro-Gaddafi forces launched a powerful counterattack against Libyan rebels today, sending the revolutionaries fleeing from towns they had taken only two days earlier.
Update at 4:24 p.m. ET. Food, Medicine Shortages:
Reuters reports that the humanitarian situation in Libya is dire:
In Libya's third largest city Misrata, where forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi and rebels continue to clash, the main hospital has been inundated with wounded and residents say water supplies and electricity have been cut off. Libyan officials deny deliberately cutting power and water to the city.
"The humanitarian situation is catastrophic. There is a shortage of food and medicine. The hospital is no longer able to deal with the situation," Sami, a rebel spokesman, said by telephone. "We call for urgent help to protect civilians and improve the humanitarian situation."
Update at 1:23 p.m. ET. France Ready To Discuss Arming Rebels:
Speaking after a meeting at the London conference, French foreign minister Alain Juppe said France was ready to discuss arming the Libyan rebels.
"I remind you it is not part of the U.N. resolution, whichFrance sticks too, but we are ready to discuss it (arming) withour partners," Juppe told reporters.
On the U.S. front Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said they had discussed with Libyan opposition ways to meet their "financial needs."
Update at noon ET. Explosions Heard In Tripoli:
"At least three powerful explosions were heard in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Tuesday, Reuters reporters there said."
Update at 10:55 a.m. ET. 'Flickers' Of Al-Qaida And Hezbollah In Opposition, NATO Commander Says:
From Reuters: "Intelligence on the rebel forces battling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has shown 'flickers' of al Qaeda or Hezbollah presence, but there is still no detailed picture of the emerging Libyan opposition," NATO's top commander said today.
But, "at this point I don't have detail sufficient to say there is a significant al Qaeda presence,' Admiral James Stavridis, who is NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and also the commander of U.S. European Command, said during testimony at the U.S. Senate.
Stavridis also said the opposition's leaders appear to be "responsible men and women."
[NPR.org follows Associated Press style on the spelling of Moammar Gadhafi's name and the spelling of Al-Qaida. Other news organization use different spellings.]
Update at 10:20 a.m. ET. Libyan Rebels Present Political Statement: They've named themselves the Interim National Council, and have drafted a lengthy statement calling for a democratic Libya with the right to free and fair elections; free expression; and human rights. The full text of the "Vision of a Democratic Libya" is here.
Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. International Conference On Libya Opens In London:
British Prime Minister David Cameron says Gadhafi is in 'flagrant breach' of UN Security Council resolutions, according to the Guardian. Cameron says Gadhafi's fighters are still attacking Libyan cities. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says 'long term progress in Libya will not be accomplished through military means'. She says political and diplomatic pressure must be used to force Gadhafi out of power.
Update at 9:20 a.m. ET. Arming The Rebels?
Friday, Tom Bowman reported that "a senior military official tells NPR that there are ongoing discussions about arming the Libyan rebels." Today, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told ABC News that "we have not made that decision ... but we have not certainly ruled that out."
Update at 8:25 a.m. ET. Libyan woman who alleged rape now charged: As Mark wrote yesterday, Iman Al-Obeidi went missing after she told foreign journalists she'd been gang-raped by Libyan soldiers. Now the Guardian reports Al-Obeidi is facing unspecified charges from the men she's accused of raping her. Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim says "it's a grave offence to accuse someone of a sexual crime."
Al-Obeidi is still missing.
Our original post:
It's hard to judge the latest on the fighting. The Wall Street Journal's headline reads "Rebels Move On Gadhafi Hometown" while Reuters reports "Gadhafi Forces Push Libya Rebels Back To Bin Jawad".
President Obama said during his Libya speech last night the U.S. will hand off its leading role in Libya to NATO on Wednesday. The AP reports today's international conference in London will also include representatives from the Arab League, the African Union and the UN. Italy plans to present a three part plan for Libya: a quick end to the military effort; exile for Gadhafi; and reconciliation between his loyalists and rebel troops.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in London. NPR's Michele Kelemen tells NPR Newscasts Clinton met with a Libyan rebel leader. Michele reports the U.S. plans to send an American envoy to Benghazi, Libya, the city controlled by rebels.
Gadhafi has demanded the world power stop their 'barbaric offensive' against his country. SkyNews says he's sent a letter to the leaders in London, comparing Allied airstrikes in Libya to Hitler's attacks in World War II.