If the rebels were able to retake Ras Lanuf — the peak of their progress in the early weeks of the uprising — it would mean they had two of Libya's most important refinery complexes under control. And it would mean they were in position to strike against the city of Surt, a stronghold of support for Colonel Qaddafi and an important symbolic and strategic target.
Rebel fighters were quoted by the Associated Press as saying that government forces were pulling back past Ras Lanuf, allowing the rebels to seize control of the Ras Lanuf refinery, though there was no independent confirmation.
Meanwhile, NATO's decision-making council was to decide on Sunday whether it would begin coordinating airstrikes directly against Colonel Qaddafi's forces. The military council has already agreed to take over maintaining a no-fly zone against the Libyan leader's aircraft, but the United States is seeking to have NATO broaden its oversight to include the airstrikes as well.