The rebels who took arms to try and oust Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi from power after almost 42 years in power, hope to celebrate their final victory over the regime's forces at the same time as the end of Ramadan" on or around August 31, he told RFI radio.
Emphasising the fact that they are entering a decisive phase, Mansur Seif al-Nasr, the rebel National Transitional Council's envoy to Paris said: “Soon we will liberate all of southern Libya.”
Seif al-Nasr's comments followed the rebels' claims that their forces totally control Zawiyah (to the west of the capital), which will open the way to Tripoli. According to the rebels, this will allow the population there to revolt.
The rebels had further claimed, Tuesday, that their war against Muammar Al Qathafi's regime had entered a "decisive phase" and that victory was possible by the end of the month.
Zawiyah is a vital oil port on Libya's Mediterranean coast, 40 kilometres west of Tripoli. Rebels claimed Monday to control "most" of the town, but Al Qathafi loyalist forces continued to bombard the area with Grad rockets. In fact, six Grad missiles hit Zawiyah, sparking a fierce heavy artillery exchange that caused an unknown number of casualties.
As the chorus grew, fighting raged across Libya, with the rebels denying they were in talks with an Al Qathafi who had predicted a swift victory against both the rebels and NATO.
Meanwhile, in a report Tuesday on its operations on Monday, NATO said it had hit tanks and an armed vehicle near Zawiyah. It said that its warplanes had also hit four multiple rocket launchers in the vicinity of Brega.
Abdulsalam Othman, spokesman for the rebel western military council, said that both the towns of Zawiyah and Gharyan were in rebel hands, as well as the 15-kilometre stretch of road linking Sorman to Zawiyah, which he said meant that Tripoli's supply lines from Tunisia were severed. The rebels also wrested control of the town of Sorman, 60 kilometres west of Tripoli.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied the rebel claims, saying regime forces were in "total control" of Zawiyah, and that the insurgent presence was "very weak."
He added that government forces had already retaken Sorman and would "soon retake Gharyan," and that the regime forces had repulsed a major rebel attack coordinated with NATO on Tiji, in the Nafusa Mountains south of Tripoli. He said that 40 prisoners had been taken.
On the eastern front, on Monday rebels battled loyalist forces around oil installations in the town of Brega, where the rebels have seized rows of seaside apartment blocks that once housed oil workers.
The Libyan regime has denied it is in danger, insisting that its forces can retake towns and districts captured by the rebels in recent days. "Our mujahedeen forces are capable of exterminating these gangs," Ibrahim said in Tripoli.
Meanwhile, a defiant Al Qathafi, despite still nowhere to be seen, denied widespread rumours he had fled the country and predicted victory. And called on his supporters to "prepare for the battle to liberate" the rest of the country.