Stalemate in Libya as Gulf markets rally

Elizabeth Fournier
KEY oil town Brega was at the centre of clashes in Libya yesterday, as rebels fought Gaddafi’s troops for control of the eastern settlement and coalition warplanes launched targeted attacks.

Fighting in Brega has been at a stalemate for several days, with Western air power failing to give insurgents the upper hand in clashes.

A Western coalition air strike killed 13 rebels late on Friday near the settlement’s eastern gate. The rebel leadership said that the bombing was an unfortunate mistake, and that air strikes were still needed against Gaddafi’s better-armed units.

Meanwhile, reports yesterday suggested Libya’s deputy foreign minister Abdelati Obeidi had flown to Athens with a message for the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

A meeting was expected to take place late last night, raising hopes of a diplomatic solution to the war.

As Nato assumed control of coalition forces, the UK said it had sent diplomats on a fact-finding trip to meet rebel leaders in Benghazi – the insurgents’ stronghold in the east.

Meanwhile, thousands of Syrians called for freedom at the funeral of eight protesters yesterday after President Bashar al-Assad named a former agriculture minister to form a new government.

Unrest also continued in Yemen yesterday, where two protesters were reported to have died when police used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse anti-government protests in Taiz, south of the capital Sana’a.

Despite ongoing turmoil across the Middle East, Gulf markets have made positive gains in the past week, as their political risk premium appeared to decline.

Both the Egyptian and Omani bourses made small gains yesterday, with Egypt up 1.7 per cent – the fifth time in seven sessions that it has risen.

Crude oil was at a 30-month high in New York on Friday, with May deliveries hitting $107.94 a barrel.