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Libya says NATO airstrikes kill 85

The Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya -- A rebel spokesman said two people have been killed and 14 wounded in fighting around a strategic oil terminal town in the country's east.

Mohammad al-Rijali said rebel forces advanced Tuesday into Brega, which is located 125 miles southwest of the opposition stronghold of Benghazi. Rebels have been trying to dislodge Moammar Gadhafi's forces from the town since April.

In Tripoli, meanwhile, the Libyan government news agency said NATO airstrikes overnight killed 85 people in Zlitan, a main fighting front between rebels and Gadhafi's troops, 90 miles southeast of Tripoli.

A NATO spokesman said the alliance hit two farm buildings in the area and that they were a legitimate military target. He said NATO has no evidence of civilian casualties at the moment.

In Washington, meanwhile, the Obama administration welcomed a decision by the rebels to reorganize their leadership in the aftermath of the killing of their military chief despite concerns it showed disunity in their ranks.

The State Department said the move was a sign the Transitional National Council, which the United States and others recognize as Libya's legitimate government, is using last month's slaying of commander Abdel-Fattah Younis as an opportunity for "reflection" and "renewal" by firing its executive committee.

"What we see is an effort by the TNC to take a hard look at itself and to make an important step forward that can reassure Libyans that in reshuffling the government, that they have a truly democratic and a truly transparent leadership group," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

On Monday, the rebels sacked their executive committee, which serves as a sort of government cabinet, in a move aimed at easing tensions over Younis' killing. His death shook both the rebels' leadership and its Western allies, who have heavily backed the rebels controlling most of eastern Libya.

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