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While the events in Japan have captured the world's attention, Muammar Gaddafi is regaining the upper hand in Libya. And authorities in other Arab countries are also taking advantage.


"We're looking death in the face," says Ali M., from the Libyan town of Zawiyah. "There was another explosion just now at an oil well." Muammar Gaddafi's troops have recaptured the city and other locals in eastern Libya tell Tages-Anzeiger that they are preparing to flee.

While the world watches spellbound as events unfold in Japan, Gaddafi has stepped up air attacks on the opposition rebels. The Libyan dictator must view the disaster in Japan as a gift from heaven. Lisa Holland, a reporter for Sky News in Tripoli, told her news channel: "They can apply the kind of force they've used in cities like Zawiyah, the world is no longer watching. It has turned its back. Its attention is elsewhere."

As aid workers and experts from across the globe rush to Japan, Gaddafi, who just a few weeks ago seemed on his last legs, is reportedly preparing to storm the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The dictator has regained the upper hand, not least thanks to his air force, as the opposition implores the West to implement a no-fly zone.

The UK and France are pushing for a no-fly zone, as are the 22 member states of the Arab League. The United States is mired in indecision, while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Paris on Tuesday that his country was "very skeptical" about imposing a no-fly zone. He explained that Germany does not want to get "stuck in a war in North Africa." The comment promptly earned Westerwelle praise from Gaddafi himself.

Gaddafi has Ensnared China and Russia with Promises of Oil

Like Iran, both China and Russia have condemned Gaddafi's violence against the Libyan people, but neither country seems prepared to act with more than words. Their solution seems to be to sit this one out. The disaster in Japan is helping them to do just that. According to reports from Nouvelobs.com and Stern.de, Gaddafi has already promised Chinese and Russian companies oil drilling licenses – following the departure of most foreign companies from Libya.

Libya is not currently exporting any oil. Although the country is one of the world's main exporters, its contribution to global exports is not big enough for a short-term disruption of supplies to spell disaster. "The international community is more concerned about a disruption of supplies from major producers like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq or Iran," Bill Farren-Price, CEO of the oil consulting firm Petroleum Policy Intelligence in London told Tages-Anzeiger. Unrest in these countries would likely cause the West to act far more decisively than they have done during the crisis in Libya.

Rulers in Yemen and Bahrain have in recent days intensified their efforts to quell the insurgencies in their countries, and have begun to shut out world media. At the same time the beleaguered royal family in Bahrain has welcomed thousands of troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states into the country to strengthen its forces against the rebels. The presence of foreign troops has served to exacerbate the already tense situation. But is the world still watching?

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