MISRATA, Libya — Libyan rebels Monday broke out toward Tripoli from the opposition-held port of Misrata 140 miles to the east, cracking a government siege as fighters across the country mounted a resurgence in their four-month-old revolt against Moammar Gadhafi.
The rebels gained a diplomatic boost as well when visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the nascent opposition government was "the legitimate representative of the Libyan people." Westerwelle was visiting Benghazi, the capital of the rebel-held east of the country, to open a liaison office and hand over medical supplies.
He stopped short of full diplomatic recognition of the Transitional National Council, as has the United States, awaiting the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi from his more than 40-year rule in the oil-rich North African country.
Germany has refused to participate in NATO airstrikes in Libya and withheld its support for the U.N. resolution that allowed the attacks.
Gadhafi plays chess: In a lighter moment, Gadhafi was shown on Libyan television playing chess with the visiting Russian head of the World Chess Federation. The federation is headed by the eccentric Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who until last year was the leader of Russia's predominantly Buddhist republic of Kalmykia. He once claimed to have visited an alien spaceship. The television report showed Gadhafi, dressed all in black and wearing dark sunglasses, playing chess Sunday evening with his Russian guest. It was unclear where the chess game took place.
Syrians take refuge in Turkey
Syrians streamed across the border Monday into neighboring Turkey, finding sanctuary in refugee camps ringed by barbed wire and offering a frightening picture of life back home where a deadly crackdown on dissent is fueling a popular revolt. On Sunday, elite forces led by Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother and backed by helicopters and tanks went into Jisr al-Shughour, a northern town that spun out of government control for a week, and regained control. In the village of Guvecci, Turkey, Syrian refugee Abu Ali said, "There are 7,000 people across the border, more and more women and children are coming toward the barbed wires. Jisr is finished, it is razed."
Bahrain's military court Monday pressed the government's case against 47 doctors and nurses, ordering the medics to plead guilty or not guilty to felony or lesser charges but prohibiting any mention of mistreatment while in detention. The hearing was attended by Stephanie Williams, the top U.S. diplomat in Bahrain. The medics are on trial because they treated mainly Shiite protesters who were injured in a crackdown in February when they started an "Arab Spring" uprising against the minority Sunni government in the small Gulf kingdom. Dr. Ali al-Ekri, an orthopedic surgeon, and Rula al-Saffar, the head of the nursing society, said their confessions were extracted through torture, and that they had to sign the papers while blindfolded. But the military judge said the only response permitted was "guilty" or "not guilty," according to family members who witnessed the hearing.
Leaders of the political opposition met Monday with Yemen's Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi and two other senior governing party officials in the capital, Sana, in the first known meeting between the two sides since the beginning of the year. U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein had pressed both sides to meet after an attack on the presidential palace June 3 in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh was seriously wounded. He was taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment, and Hadi became acting president in Saleh's absence. Both sides described the meeting as a first step toward reconciliation.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt's ruling body, told human rights advocates Monday that military courts have sentenced at least 7,000 civilians to jail since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, and promised to review those cases to see whether the guilty verdicts should be vacated. But human rights activists expressed dissatisfaction.
This report contains information from the Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers and New York Times.