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The World

March 24, 2011

Gadhafi forces roll back; rebels try to organize

(Continued)

A doctor in Misrata said Gadhafi's tanks fled after the airstrikes, giving a much-needed reprieve to the besieged coastal city, which is inaccessible to human rights monitors or journalists. The airstrikes struck the aviation academy and a vacant lot outside the central hospital, the doctor said.

"Today, for the first time in a week, the bakeries opened their doors," the doctor said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals if Gadhafi's forces take Libya's third-largest city, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

Neither the rebels nor Gadhafi has mustered the force for an outright victory, raising concerns of a prolonged conflict.

Gates said no one was ever under any illusion that the assault would last just two or three weeks. He had no answer when asked about a possible stalemate if Gadhafi hunkers down, and the coalition lacks U.N. authorization to target him.

Obama, when asked about an exit strategy during an interview with the Spanish-language network Univision, didn't lay out a vision for ending the international action, but rather said: "The exit strategy will be executed this week in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment."

The administration wants others to lead the way soon: Gates said the U.S. could relinquish control as soon as Saturday. Members of the coalition, however, were still divided over the details.

In a compromise proposal, NATO would be guided by a political committee of foreign ministers from the West and the Arab world. But NATO nations remained deadlocked over the alliance's possible role in enforcing the U.N.-authorized no-fly zone.

NATO warships, meanwhile, started patrolling Wednesday to enforce the U.N. arms embargo against Libya. Alliance spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the action was to "cut off the flow of arms and mercenaries," activity that intelligence reports say is continuing.

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