By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, March 19: Celebrations took place in Benghazi today to mark the first anniversary of the first NATO . . .[restrict]airstrikes last year that saved the city from being recaptured and destroyed by Qaddafi’s forces.
On March 17 last year, the UN Security Council voted to impose the No-Fly ban over Libya. That led, two days later, to a conference of NATO member states in Paris within two hours of which NATO aircraft from France started hitting Qaddafi forces planning to storm the city in an 11th hour move to prevent a massacre there.
Today’s celebrations to mark the fighting that day and those who had died in the city’s defence started at the western entrance to the city and then headed to Tripoli Bridge and on to Liberation Square. They included an air display.
The event was attended by the families of many of the martyrs as well NTC chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib and prominent political figures such as Ali Tarhouni, Ahmad Bani and Sulaiman Elfortia. A number of foreign officials and diplomats also attended the packed event in the square.
In a speech, Tarhouni spoke out against federalism, saying that Libya needed to be united from west to east. Extending the theme of unity, he also called for brigades to be united into the armed forces, saying that there was no longer any reason for their continued existence. He also stressed the important role of Libyan pilots in helping save the city. He praised France’s role in rescuing the city a year ago, saying that Libyans would not forget what France had done for them.
Both the NTC chairman and the prime minister also emphasized the need for Libyan unity, attacking calls for federalism. Elfortia, the NTC member for Misrata, said that his city fully supported Benghazi, paying homage to its martyrs for helping make the revolution possible. He too, however, used the occasion to reject federalism and call on the citizens of Benghazi to support a united Libya.
In his short speech, Jalil promised that the NTC council would return to its Benghazi headquarters for every last week of the month.