We've got breaking news tonight on Libya. The New York Times is reporting opposition leaders may ask for airstrikes, under U-N Security Council sanction, carried out by Western air forces. We'll talk it over with with our reporters in Libya and Prof. Fouad Ajamai of John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Plus, the U.S. government went on record today saying Moammar Gadhafi has to go. Will opposition forces ask for outside help to make that happen?
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/POLITICS/03/01/libya.diplomatic.ties/story.US.ties.Libya.gi.jpg caption="Libyan demonstrators in Washington on Tuesday display the pre-Gadhafi Libyan flag." width=300 height=169]
Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration is considering whether it should cut diplomatic ties with Libya, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday.
"Whether to maintain relations or sever them is under review," the official said.
Cutting ties would send a strong message that the United States no longer considers the government of Moammar Gadhafi to be legitimate.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both said in recent days that Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy to rule the Libyan people and should leave power.
According to the senior U.S. official, the last high-level communication with Gadhafi's government was last week, when Clinton spoke with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa.
However, the official also said there was "still some utility" in reserving channels of communication with the Gadhafi government, noting that some American citizens remain in Libya and there could be a need to talk to Libyan officials about humanitarian activity.
"There may be instructions one has to give to Libya depending on what happens going forward," the official said.
The official added that the United States still considered Ali Aujali to be the legitimate Libyan ambassador to the United States, even after the Gadhafi regime notified Washington that Aujali no longer represented its interests.
Last week, Aujali said he no longer represented the regime because of Gadhafi's brutal repression against the Libyan people. But he said he still represented the Libyan people and told the State Department he would remain a liaison to the Libyan opposition.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on March 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony from Secretary Clinton on assessing U.S. foreign policy priorities and needs amidst economic challenges. (Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Update: Beat 360° Winners:
“If I close my eyes and snap my fingers, I’ll wake up as President!”
San East Lansing, MI
"I am THIS close from getting upset."
CNN Wire Staff
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi tried to retake a town near the capital that is under opposition control but were repelled, an opposition leader in the town told CNN Tuesday.
The source said pro-Gadhafi troops with tanks and anti-aircraft guns attacked Zawiya from east and west at nightfall Monday, but did not capture the town.
A senior official in Gadhafi's regime denied that government forces attacked rebels in Zawiya.
Senior members of the government told CNN that Zawiya and Misrata are key to their effort to regain control of the country. The officials insisted they want a peaceful resolution, but witnesses have described repeated violent efforts by the regime to regain control of areas Gadhafi has lost.
Meanwhile, more parts of the regime have broken off, joining calls for Gadhafi to halt the violence. In London, the Libyan Embassy said it was siding with the opposition, condemning what it called "all acts of murder and terror" taking place in Libya.
Zawiya was calm Tuesday, but Gadhafi's troops remained nearby, the opposition leader and another source in the town said. CNN is not naming them to protect their safety.
Misrata was protected by its residents and military defectors and the situation there on Tuesday was stable, said Abd al Baset Imzeereq, who identified himself as the spokesman for the newly formed city council.
Pro-Gadhafi forces are stationed in the Navy college about 15 kilometers (nine miles) outside the city and have not attempted to move into the city center since its fall, he said.
The forces appear to be stationed there not to try to retake the city, but to protect the ammunition depot in the college and "to terrorize the people" by opening fire on them.
At least two farmers were killed Monday when these forces shot at their vehicle, Imzeereq said.
Still, some semblance of normalcy was visible Tuesday, when some banks had reopened in Misrata and people were able to withdraw money or get loans, he said.
Food supplies were ample, he said, but medical goods were scarce.
Imzeereq said at least 33 have been killed and another 487 wounded in Misrata since the unrest began.
Ivan Watson and Moni Basu
Along The Libya-Tunisia Border (CNN) - A green flag fluttering in the wind designated Libyan territory. A short distance away, a red flag flew for Tunisia. In between, a mass of humanity waited in no man's land, desperate to flee escalating rebellion in one nation and cross into another that has already succeeded in toppling a dictator.
Periodically, a ripple flowed through the crowd of thousands of refugees as men took turns passing forward dazed and unconscious travelers, overwhelmed by a treacherous journey to the border and exposure to the elements.
Tunisian emergency workers rushed with fluorescent orange stretchers to evacuate the sick.
Chaos reigned along Libya's western border Tuesday as Tunisian police attempted to hold back a tide of people, mostly foreign workers caught in the storm of change blowing through the region.
There were simply too many people crossing too fast, overwhelming Tunisian authorities, aid agencies and volunteers trying to get a handle on what the United Nations called a humanitarian catastrophe in the making.
The U.N. refugee agency reported that nearly 150,000 people have crossed over from Libya into Tunisia and Egypt.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama is watching the events in the Middle East, and I suspect (in today’s letter) that he better get used to that…
Dear Mr. President,
What did I say? Have you seen what has transpired in Tunisia? Of course, you have! Or at least someone on your staff has told you about it.
Here are the crib notes, just in case: A little more than six weeks ago, the Tunisians arose en masse and gave their president the boot, sending a ripple through the Middle East which has now driven Mubarak out of power in Egypt, is threatening to topple Gadhafi in Libya, and who knows who else before it all ends?
But now the mob is back on the prowl in Tunisia. Protesters who feel as if the replacement government was too hastily assembled and has too many ties to the previous bosses, are demanding…once again…that everyone pack up their cardboard boxes of office supplies and scram.