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Libyan rebels meet Sarkozy to ask for weapons

Military leaders from the rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy today for extra aid to defeat Muammar Gaddafi, a member of their delegation said.

"Insurgent commanders came to explain to the head of state that the keys to Tripoli are in Misrata because Misrata's fighters are disciplined, battle hardened and they have a key asset: a military victory already won" against forces loyal to Gaddafi, Bernard-Henri Levy told AFP after the meeting.

French writer Levy has been an ardent supporter of the Libyan revolt and attended the talks at Sarkozy's Elysee palace alongside rebel General Ramadan Zarmuh, Colonel Ahmed Hashem and Colonel Brahim Betal Mal.

France is taking part in NATO-coordinated strikes against Gaddafi's military assets and was the first outside state to formally recognise the rebels' Transitional National Council.

Sarkozy's main military advisor, General Benoit Puga, took part in the talks, and a source close to the delegation said discussions between Libyan rebel leaders and French military top brass were ongoing.

Misrata insurgents hope that France will provide similar support to that given to the rebel enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli, the source said.

France in June said that it had delivered weapons to rebels there to help defend themselves against Gaddafi's forces.

Misrata, around 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of Tripoli, has been controlled by rebels since mid-May, after a two-month siege by Gaddafi forces.

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