Biggest Allies of Pakistan Are the Pakistani-Americans: Congresswoman Lee

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Hon Green, Lee, & AL Hoang at the Alliance Benevolent 40-Feet Container Sending-Off Ceremony

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“According to the latest reports from Pakistan of this past Thursday, three millions out of the original six million brothers & sisters in humanity are still suffering from the after affects of the floods of late August & early September, including hundreds & thousands of children. It is clear that several thousands will continue to struggle in months and years to come,” informed Muhammad Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Houston Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, a collaborative of 42 organizations and media outlets.

Mr. Sheikh was doing the welcome speech at the Pakistan Center of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), on the occasion of preparation and sending-off ceremony of 40-feet container termed the Benevolent Container from the Houstonians Community for the brethren in humanity in Sindh Pakistan, who are suffering from the aftermath of the floods of 2011.

Honorable Congresspersons AL Green and Sheila Jackson Lee; Councilman AL Hoang of City of Houston, and Honorable Consul Generals of Pakistan & Turkey Aqil Nadeem and Cemalettin (pronounced Jemalettin) Aydin were the special guests of honor at this ceremony, together with President of PAGH Taslim Siddiqui, Sindhi Association of North America (SANA)’s Jamil Daudi, Sam’s Club’s Khaled Khan, Hashoo Foundation’s Cristal Montanez, and many others. Emcee of the event was Noorunisa Ghanghro, who included several inspiring quotes of Madam Teresa in her talk.

Special Congressional and Mayoral Proclamations of Excellent Service by the Alliance were given by the three elected officials.

Hon AL Hoang; Hon Aqil Nadeem; Hon Cemalettin; President of the Texas-Turkish Chamber of Commerce Celil Yaka; and Taslim Siddiqui spoke on the occasion, appreciating the work of the Alliance under the leadership of Muhammad Saeed Sheikh; in doing the unified efforts, and said Alliance has shown how when several hands join together have such positive impact.

Coordinator of In-Kind Donation Mian Nazir of PAGH thanked his team of volunteers lead by Zeeshan Qavi, and more than 15 volunteers of Red Cross from Dulles High School Sugar Land; plus several volunteers of SANA.

Honorable Congressman AL Green said that the motto of Alliance is Blessings in Unity and the excellent results of the efforts of Alliance truly reflect that. He applauded the efforts of Pakistani community in helping people in need everywhere including at the time of Katrina and Ike, when the Pakistani community got together in helping the fellow Americans. He appreciated PAGH for always offering Pakistan Center, when humanity has the need.

Honorable Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said she is totally impressed to see more than $81,000 raised in cash by the Alliance and more than $100,000 wholesale value of in-kind donated items raised by the Alliance of 42 entities to benefit the flood victims of Pakistan. She said when the nutritious meal will reach the mouth of those needing it the most and hygiene items reaching to cleanse them, they will indeed remember this nice gift sent by Pakistani-Americans, who are the biggest allies of Pakistan.

Honorable Lee went on to say she is extremely sorrowful on the recent loss of army soldiers as well as several of the Pakistani army personnel and civilians losing their lives in this war on terrorism. These are trying days in the USA-Pakistan relations, where their friendship goes back to decades. We need to continue informing leaders of USA and Pakistan that this friendship should be strengthened rather than made weaker; and although many tragic incidents may have happened, but that should not affect the otherwise cordial relationship between the two nations and countries.

In his presentation Coordinator of the Alliance Muhammad Saeed Sheikh said in the end that last year at an emergency meeting called by Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee at her office, she mentioned about sending a Mercy Plane to Pakistan. Although it is not a Mercy Plane, but we want to report to Honorable Congresswoman that it is a much larger 40-feet Mercy Container holding more than $100,000 retail worth of in-kind donations of the most needed food and hygiene items plus blankets for the flood victims of Pakistan.

For more information about the Alliance, one can call Muhammad Saeed Sheikh at 1-281-948-1840.

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Tariq Ali on The Jasmine Revolutions–Impact on Palestine?

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

sinkPart I–Oakland–Shortly before the beginning of the Civil Disturbances in the U.S.A. which broke out on the boulevards of this California city, the renowned literati and “rabble rouser” Tariq Ali, came to this town brought, as a fund-raiser for the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance (MECA) to raise not only money for Palestinian and Iraqi children, but to educate the American public on the plight of Arabs in the Middle East – particularly those caught up in the Palestinian-Israeli imbroglio.  He came to address a totally non-academic American audience here.  

The Occupy Wall Street Movement(s) have been the  most serious challenge to American Capitalism from within for quite some time.  Now, Dr. Ali comes from within Islamic culture — although fully cognizant of the foibles of the West, which would put him at odds with the Euro-American financial system from the perspective of an outsider, but, simultaneously, an insider for his long residence in the West.

He began by declaiming that the legal foundation for the (Palestinian) Right of Return was legally delineated by the U.N. in 1948.  Thus, the “Right of Return” is, for politically exiled Palestinians citizens, guaranteed under International law!  He emphatically declaimed that “There can be no peace in the Holy Land without a “Right of Return!”  Speaking here in a hall nears the jewel of this city of the capital of Alameda County, Lake Merrit (an Arroyo from the Bay), that the oppressed people of Palestine were in solidarity with the revolt here against Metropolis and the repressive principles of Imperialism:  “It was great to be part of Occupy Oakland!”

Ali was born (1943) and educated in Pakistan (Lahore) shortly before Independence (1947 and Partition) from the British of a prominent “feudal” family of that nation, but, after becoming radicalized in his politics, he was exiled to the United Kingdom where he gained notoriety as a writer and an editor.

He opined that the fall of (the “Pharaoh”) Mubarak on the Nile would (begin to) transform the Middle East, and would blunt the U.S.’ pro-Israeli policy towards the imbroglio in the Levant.
Essentially, the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty had corrupted the great Nasser’s prior traditional principle of support for the Palestinian people on the other side of the Sinai from Alexandria.  Shortly before the outpouring in Tahrir Square, the American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton described the Mubaraks as “family.”  Presently, the Americans are holding talks with the mighty Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood (who, as of this composition [the 3rd]) of the first part of this article) seem to be headed towards a plurality in the current election and may be the dominant political grouping of any coalition that could unfold (after the final tally of this drawn-out election is announced).

“It is not a black and white picture” there.  The masses must assuage their fear of death to politically succeed.  Yet, fraternization between Cairo’s military and their people has been developing.  Succinctly, though, this has weakened Washington’s influence there. 

Ali confirms a point your author on this page made in remarks within the previous month:  The Iraqi population was amongst the best educated in the Middle East – including opportunity for women – under the Baathist (i.e., a type of Arab socialism) regime.   (Of course, unfortunately, this was achieved at the expense of minority and religious rights.)

On the other hand, Khadafy presided over a tribal system.  Many in the West disliked the Colonel because of his eccentricity, and the intervention of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) can be seen as revenge for his perceived hostile saber-rattling against Brussels, etc., but, most of all, for suspected involvement in Lockerbie.

Despite Colonel Khadafy bizarre manner, he opened Libya to Modernism, but the Occident wished the mineral richness of his desert.  One of the problems that Moammer Khadafy’s regime had was its waffling and failure to develop a clear policy for governance.

Supposedly, New York (the U.N.) gave the commission for NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to protect the non-combatants in and around Benghazi, but the Alliance extended their mandate to cover all the air space over the Libyan sands.  For Tariq Ali, “To prevent one massacre, they created a second one” of their own. 

The West wishes the Burghers to rule in post-“Revolutionary” Libya, but the Islamists have other ideas.  “Tyrants should be toppled organically,” but ultimately the language of violence is the determinant.  We, according to Tariq, find ourselves in a post-legal situation, also.  Succinctly, we are killing our own.

Ali Sahib deems that Obama has not come through, (but your correspondent senses the only other options for personalities in that position would impact the Islamic nation much worse.)   America recently has dealt crudely with Arab leaders in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria.  He rightly points out that the Mossed have been the leader in State terrorism (as have the ISI, and British intelligence) and now he asserts that the U.S. is mimicking them.  (That is true to a point, D.C. [the District of Columbia’s] Central Intelligence Agency [C.I.A.] has a long way to go, though, to free itself from its traditional bungling.    Further, to struggle within the Arab “Spring, the Saudis have been suppressing Bahrain for some time.  The Bahraini King was appointed by the Colonial British.  The Royal family is Sunni whereas the grand majority of their subjects are Shia.  Essentially, the King only represents his own tribe which leaves out most other traditional groupings.

This discussion will be develop and unfold in the future.

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$5,000 Given By HHRD To Turkish People

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

On the evening of Tuesday, November 01, 2011 at the picturesque Turkish Center in Houston, Five Thousand Dollars Check was given by ILyas Choudry, U. S. South Central Region Coordinator of Helping Hand for Relief & Development (HHRD), to the Honorable Consul General of Turkey in Houston Cemalettin Aydın, as sincere gesture of solidarity and assistance to the people of Turkey for the recent Van Earthquake.

The visiting Turkish Government Delegation and local Houston Muslims & Pakistan Community persons were present on the occasion.

Members of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts were present. This Alliance is a collaborative of 24 Community Organizations and 12 Community Media Outlets.
In his remarks, Honorable Aydin thanked the Alliance and HHRD for the most thoughtful donation, and said that people of the region of Pakistan, especially those from the areas of Pakistan, also had worked diligently in the 1920s for the people of Turkey, during the times when Turkey was getting her independence.

In his short presentation, ILyas Choudry mentioned that Turkish people have always been in the forefront of humanitarian work in USA & worldwide, especially Pakistan; has contributed a lot to the economy and culture of the world; and that today when Turkey needs much assistance, as thousands of our brethren in humanity in Van Turkey, are struggling in the cold weather after the severe earthquake, we at HHRD feel it as our foremost obligation to assist our Sisters and Brothers of Turkey.

Most recently two days before earthquake hit Van Turkey, Turkish Community had open their picturesque Turkish Center at no charge for the Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts and Turkish Community themselves raised more than $25,000 from their own Community for Pakistan, under the umbrella of the Alliance (up till Nov 05th, $76,000+ have been raised by Alliance for Pakistan Floods victims).

ILyas Choudry also informed that HHRD’s Local Rep. from Istanbul Turkey Imam Zulqarnain, has already done $10,000 worth of food distribution to the most affected families of Van; and that more humanitarian work will continue to be done.

For more information, one can go to www.HHRD.Org

Event was covered by community media as well as mainstream local American TVs Channel Two and Channel 39.

The Senior Government of Turkey officials present on the occasion were from “Ministry of Energy and Natural Resource”.

They included:

Prime Ministry – Privatization Administration
Sefa Sadık Aytekin, Deputy Undersecretary
Ozturk Selvitop, Head of Department, Ahmet Aksu, President
Arzu Atik, Head of Project Group
M. Günden Cınar, Head of Project Group
National Regulatory Authority (EMRA)
Alpaslan Bayraktar, Vice President 
Zekeriya Göksenli, Board Member  
Gülefsan Demirbas, Head of Department   
Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey ( ISPAT)
Hasan Pehlivan, Principal Advisor
Erkan Kaptan, Project Director

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Houston’s Positive Response For Pakistan Floods 2011

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Formed in Houston:  “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”

pakistanSeveral community based organizations in Houston, Texas, USA; came together this past weekend, to establish a collaborative to serve the humanity in dire needs suffering from Floods 2011 in Pakistan. This body is named the “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”; and its aims are to send monetary funds through members organizations working in the field in Sindh Pakistan, and to also send in-kind donations; all to benefit the humanity suffering from floods in Sindh Pakistan, where more than 7.50 million lives have been totally disturbed and projected to remain be disturbed in weeks and months to come.

Members of the Alliance as of Monday, September 19th, 2011 in alphabetical order are given below. More organizations are being approached and also being encouraged with this communiqué, to join this collaborative. For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Alliance at 1-281-948-1840 and/or ILyas Hasan Choudry, Secretary of the Alliance at 1-832-275-0786):

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – Hashoo Foundation USA – Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) – Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT) – Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – Raindrop Helping Hands – Raindrop Turkish House – Red Cross – Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – Sun Charity – Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB);

Media Partners: Pakistan Chronicle – Pakistan Journal – Pakistan News – Pakistan Times – Radio Houston – Radio Light Of Islam – Radio Shalimar – Muslim Observer…

The inaugural exploratory meeting started with recitation of Quran by Abdur Rauf Khan. After initial introductions of all the attendees, one of the persons, who had envisioned the idea of this Alliance, Saeed Sheikh talked about the importance and blessings in joint efforts to serve the humanity in dire needs in Pakistan due to the recent catastrophic floods.

ILyas Hasan Choudry gave an overall assessment of the damage in Sindh Pakistan due to these floods and ongoing efforts. He informed that these floods were different than last year, where floods came down from mountains giving time for people to relocate. Here rains came down in four spells, causing sudden and very high floods, which have never been seen in 51 years. So people did not get warning to relocate. Catastrophe is larger than last years’ flood, but somehow due to political, economical, and other natural & man-made catastrophes having hit Pakistan, USA and the world, media was late in picking up this news, especially the media in Pakistan.  Otherwise this tragedy had struck many people long time ago, like almost one month ago. 250+ persons died, 2.30-Million bales of cotton lost, almost all of the crops are destroyed in an area of  7-Millon Acres, more than 60,000 cattle heads perishing (whole livelihood of majority of common people in the area of twenty or more districts gone), and 750,000+ homes partially or completely destroyed. Water has come in so much quantity that it is projected by experts that it may take 30 to 45 days just for the water to recede. As such there is emergency relief work needed in terms of clean water, food, shelter, healthcare services, and psycho-social support for children, ladies, and elderly. After the first phase of one to two months, much long term rehabilitation will be needed. Local organizations at grassroots levels are working within the communities, where people are stranded due to water, while international NGOs with local offices are trying to bring people into cluster camps and providing their efforts.

Based on thorough discussion, following are the projects and programs that were decided for this alliance: Doing In-Kind donation drive for three to four weeks (and beyond if needed). Since the best possible facilities, including dock for container, are available at PAGH’s Pakistan Center located at 12638 Bissonett, Houston, Texas 77099, so that will the place to collect In-Kind donations.

Alliance will also organize joint monetary fundraising events, which may include a large scale underwritten dinner at a nice location, and one or two radio telethons, where people will be encouraged to donate towards the organizations of their choice, just like it was done at the time of the earthquake in Pakistan 2005. For the joint fundraising efforts, more organizations will be included that will become part of the list of organizations to receive the monetary donations for these joint fundraising efforts. As of Monday, September 19th, 2011, these organizations were identified to receive monetary funds raised during Alliance’s Events (more can be included later on): Pakistan Prime Minister Fund; Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter; Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development; Imran Khan Foundation (IKF); Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH); Raindrop Helping Hands; Sindhi Association of North America (SANA); Sun Charity; and Red Cross (included so as to give choice to larger American community to participate – someone from Red Cross will be approached before putting their name on the final list).

It was decided to have an initial working committee for the Alliance, and following persons were chosen with consensus – More persons will be included as the Alliance expands By the Grace of God: Saeed Sheikh (Coordinator), Talat Talpur (Treasurer), Mian Nazir (In-Kind Donation Coordinator), and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Secretary and Community & Media Outreach). Two persons, who are members of the Alliance Organizations; namely Bobby Refaie and Cristal Montanez Baylor will soon be in Pakistan; and during their stay in Pakistan, they will act as Liaison for the Alliance in Pakistan.

For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh (Cell: 1-281-948-1840) and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Cell: 1-832-275-0786).

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Musharraf to Partner with Political Parties Struggling Against the Pakistan Status-Quo

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Wife of President Musharraf Ms. Sehba Musharraf, Former President of Pakistan General Retired Pervez Musharraf, APML Patron Javed Anwar of Midland Energy, Inc., Coordinator of Houston APML Attorney Noami Hussain (speaking); and Coordinator of North America APML Dr. Naseem Ashraf…

Former President of Pakistan General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf addressed the local Pakistani media, his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) members & patrons in Texas USA at a posh Galleria Restaurant, where among others, his lobbyist in USA Stephen Prentiss Payne was also present.

Some of the notable APML members and patrons present were Javed Anwar of Midland Energy, Coordinator of North America APML Dr. Naseem Ashraf, Coordinator of Houston APML Attorney Noami Hussain, and Secretary of Houston APML Saeed Sheikh.

Talking to the media directly, Musharraf said when he took over the administration of the government, there used to be only Pakistan Television (PTV) mic in front of him, but now politicians and others have 70s of mics: “Do you think a dictator would have ever done that?”

He said dictatorship is not in the uniform that one may be wearing: It is a mind set and his policies of opening up the society and making media independent, clearly show that he was and is not a dictator.

Musharraf said there is a word “Niyah” in Urdu and Arabic, and intentions is not the word to explain it: He said true meaning of Niyah is very difficult to explain in any language: It is a very deep word and good Niyah for a strong Pakistan is the driving force for him to consider entering politics; otherwise he is leading an excellent life, delivering lectures, getting well-paid of that, where his interest for his speaking tour circuits are protected by the famous Harry Walker Agency, Inc.: With this good Niyah for better Pakistan, he is going to abandon his present easy life and return to Pakistan, where in the past, there have been attempts against his life and recent years have seen political figures and other Pakistanis being killed.

He said all media outlets need to support any leader in Pakistan for the sake of Pakistan’s future, whomever they think is the person who truly believes in “Pakistan First”, but if the media is opposing someone, they need to do that in respectful and responsible manner.

Dr. Naseem Ashraf informed that during his recent trip to Washington DC, Musharraf met with around 25 Congress-persons.

Musharraf said that after meeting with many political figures from Pakistan in Dubai & London, he has decided to return to Pakistan, landing in Lahore on March 23rd, 2012.

According to schedule, the Elections in Pakistan are in January or February of 2013, which would mean that as per the rules & regulations the present government to be dissolved in October or November 2012 and then an interim government conducting the elections with hopefully an independent election commission.

Musharraf said he is willing to make alliances with parties that are against the status-quo.

People over there while discussing this point, had general feeling that most interestingly those parties, which did not take part in the last elections like Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Jamat-e-Islami, and some others, are the most well known and vocal parties now-a-days against the status-quo.

So question is will he try to establish an alliance with these parties or will these parties ever like to have an alliance with APML?

As they say, in politics and life, everything is possible.

May be the alliance will not be done during the elections, but most likely after-wards with one or more such parties.

Among these parties, Tehreek-e-Insaaf although has been very much against Musharraf’s Administration policies, but recently Tehreek-e-Insaaf has openly admired his power devolving policy of taking government to the grassroots levels in Pakistan, which was abolished by the present Government.

Also recently Musharraf was on a talk show, where the host Umer Sharif said that in Pakistan, PMs do not have long term tenures, while Presidents always do better in terms of at least having long-term tenures.

Plus Musharraf does not have a good constituency to run for a seat in the parliament.

As such his best bet will be to have enough people of credentials from Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam & Nawaz Sharif Groups joining APML (people like Marvi Memon), who at local levels can win elections and then his party getting enough seats to make a coalition government with some other party or parties, where he will try to be accepted as the President and other party candidate becoming PM.

However all this is extremely difficult to happen, with so many arrest warrants against Musharraf Sahab. Can he get any clemency?

Again in politics and life, especially in a country like Pakistan, where things like NRO can happen, anything is possible?

In the mean time, it seems the way things are being handled in Karachi and elsewhere, the PPPP Government is trying very hard that their government gets dissolved sometimes this year, so that they can go back to people and get the sympathy vote saying it always happen with PPPP that the hidden hand(s) never let them finish their tenures.

Lets’ see if all this will at all happen, in a most complex Pakistani society and political arena.

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Libyan Rebels Take New Ground in Western Mountains

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nick Carey

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Rebel fighters prepare to make their way to the frontline near the town of Riyayna, June 15, 2011.   

REUTERS/Anis Mili

GHARYAN, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan rebels pushed deeper into government-held territory south of the capital on Wednesday, but their advance came as strains began to emerge in the Western alliance trying to topple Muammar Gaddafi.

Fighters in the Western Mountains, a rebel stronghold about 150 km (90 miles) south-west of Tripoli, built on gains made in the past few days by taking two villages from which pro-Gaddafi forces had for months been shelling rebel-held towns.

The rebels are still a considerable way from Gaddafi’s main stronghold in Tripoli, while their fellow fighters on the other two fronts — in Misrata and in eastern Libya — have made only halting progress against better-armed government troops.

“The revolutionaries (rebels) now control Zawiyat al-Babour and al-Awiniyah after pro-Gaddafi forces retreated this morning from the two villages,” Abdulrahman, a rebel spokesman in the nearby town of Zintan, told Reuters.

In Gharyan, a Gaddafi-held town that forms the gateway from Tripoli to the mountains, there was an undercurrent of tension as the frontline moves closer to the capital.
Libyan government minders brought a group of reporters to the town, which lies about 120 kilometers southwest of Tripoli and about 20 kilometers east of Kikla, which rebels seized from Gaddafi loyalists on Tuesday.

Despite an outward appearance of normality, numerous walls around town on Wednesday had recently painted over graffiti. The windows of one government building were smashed, the sign for another was riddled with holes.

While many traders and people on the streets were reluctant to talk to reporters, one shop owner said the calm in the area during the day was replaced by fighting every night.
“Two thirds of the people here are for the rebels,” he told Reuters, giving his name as Mohammed.

Those willing to talk in front of the minders were strongly pro-Gaddafi.

“Sarkozy is stupid, he is fighting this war for petrol,” a man called Yunis said in French, referring to the French president, villified by Gaddafi supporters as the driving force behind NATO bombing. “This is colonialism all over again.”

The NATO military alliance, which has been pounding Gaddafi’s military and command-and-control structures for nearly three months, has failed to dislodge him.

Libyan TV said on Wednesday a NATO bombardment had killed 12 people in a convoy in Kikla. A NATO official denied it.

Ties are becoming strained in the alliance, with some NATO members complaining that others have been reluctant to commit additional resources needed to sustain the bombing mission in the coming months.

Adding to the pressure, Republicans in the U.S. Congress are pressing President Barack Obama to explain the legal grounds on which he was keeping U.S. forces involved in Libya without the authorisation of Congress.

Speaking in London after meeting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, British Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated that time was running out for Gaddafi and that the alliance was as determined as ever.

“I think there is a very clear pattern emerging which is time is on our side, because we have the support of NATO, the United Nations, the Arab League, a huge number of countries in our coalition and in our contact group,” he said.

Rasmussen echoed those comments despite senior NATO commander General Stephane Abrial on Tuesday raising questions about the alliance’s ability to handle a long-term intervention.

“Allies and partners are committed to provide the necessary resources and assets to continue this operation and see it through to a successful conclusion,” Rasmussen said.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said the alliance was “sliding down and being dragged more into the eventuality of a land-based operation in Libya.”

In a theatrical show of defiance, Gaddafi was shown at the weekend playing a game of chess with a Russian official, but after weeks of ambivalence, Moscow has joined Western countries this month in calling for Gaddafi to step down.

Saad Djebbar, a former legal adviser to the Libyan government, told Reuters Gaddafi would continue to play for time and seek to demoralise and split the coalition.

“Gaddafi’s mentality is that as long as my enemies haven’t triumphed, I haven’t lost,” he said.

“The U.S. stance, that the major outside role should be played by the Europeans and Arabs, sends the wrong signal. Gaddafi will be very encouraged by it. His line is ‘We are steadfast. We can wait it out.’”

Gaddafi has said he has no intention of leaving the country — an outcome which, with the military intervention so far failing to produce results, many Western policymakers see as the most realistic way out of the conflict.

The Libyan leader has described the rebels as criminals and al Qaeda militants, and called the NATO intervention an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya’s oil.

Potent Force

Though under attack from NATO warplanes and rebel fighters, Gaddafi’s troops have showed they are still a potent force.

A rebel spokesman in Nalut, at the other end of the Western Mountains range from Zintan, said Gaddafi’s forces had been shelling Nalut and the nearby border crossing into Tunisia. The rebels depend on that crossing to bring in supplies.

On Tuesday, the rebels tried to advance in the east of Libya, setting their sights on the oil town of Brega, but they were unable to break through.

In Misrata, Libya’s third-biggest city about 200 km (120 miles) east of Tripoli, rebels have been inching slowly west toward the neighbouring town of Zlitan along the coast road to Tripoli, but have repeatedly had to fall back under fire.

The rebels there have expressed frustration that NATO is not more active at taking out Gaddafi’s forces there, and is not doing more to coordinate with fighters on the ground.

A Reuters correspondent in Misrata said there were no further advances toward Zlitan on Wednesday.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger will visit the rebels in Benghazi on Sunday to offer “concrete support,” his office said, the latest in a series of such visitors.

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