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Rebels moving closer to Qaddafi bastion: official

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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Rebel fighters have started closing in on one of Muammar Qaddafi's last strongholds, the town of Bani Walid, without encountering resistance.

Despite Saturday's push forward, rebel officials say they're still trying to persuade tribal elders in Bani Walid to surrender without a fight.

Associated Press reporters traveling with the rebels approaching from the north advanced to within 10 kilometers (six miles) of the town, which sits between Tripoli and Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte.

A local rebel official, Abdel-Baset Naama, says rebels also moved closer to the town from the west. Naama says forces from various area towns are gathering along the approaches to Bani Walid.

Qaddafi is on the run, and some officials have speculated he is in Bani Walid.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The CIA worked closely with Muammar Qaddafi's intelligence services in the rendition of terror suspects to Libya for interrogation, according to documents seen Saturday by the AP, cooperation that could spark tensions between Washington and Libya's new rulers.

The CIA was among a number of foreign intelligence services that worked with Libya's agencies, according to documents found at a Libyan security agency building in Tripoli.

The discovery came as the Libyan rebels said they would surround pro-Qaddafi cities until the Sept. 10 deadline for their surrender.

"We are by the grace of God in a position of strength, capable of entering any city, to deploy any of our fighters in any direction," the head of the rebels' National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, told reporters in Benghazi. "However, in our desire to avoid bloodshed and to avoid more destruction to public properties and national institutions, we have given an ultimatum of one week to the areas of Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha."

"It is an opportunity for these cities to peacefully join the revolution," he said, adding the rebels were providing humanitarian aid to the besieged areas along with water and electricity services.

The intelligence documents found in Tripoli, meanwhile, provided new details on the ties between Western countries and Qaddafi's regime. Many of those same countries backed the NATO attacks that helped Libya's rebels force Qaddafi from power.

One notable case is that of Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, commander of the anti-Qaddafi rebel force that now controls Tripoli. Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant group with links to al-Qaida. Belhaj says he was tortured by CIA agents at a secret prison, then returned to Libya.

Two documents from March 2004 appear to be American correspondence to Libyan officials to arrange Belhaj's rendition.

Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents say he will be flown from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Libya and asks for Libyan government agents to accompany him.

It also requests American "access to al-Sadiq for debriefing purposes once he is in your custody."

"Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected," the document says.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which found the documents, called the ties between Washington and Qaddafi's regime "a very dark chapter in American intelligence history, and it remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services."

In Washington, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment Saturday on any specific allegation related to the documents.

"It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats," Youngblood said. "That is exactly what we are expected to do."

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Rami al-Shaheibi contributed from Benghazi, Libya.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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