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Libya rebels to enter pro-Gaddafi town after deal: report

DUBAI (Reuters) - Libyan forces plan to enter the pro-Gaddafi desert town of Bani Walid on Tuesday after reaching a deal with delegates from the town to avoid fighting, Al Jazeera television said.

The pan-Arab news channel, citing the anti-Gaddafi forces, said the fighters were expected to enter the city after the deal is formalized, which would likely be around midday.

Bani Walid, which lies 150 km (90 miles) south of Tripoli, had refused to surrender to forces loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC), giving rise to expectations there would be another round of fighting to rout forces loyal to Libya's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

On-and-off talks involving Bani Walid's tribal elders had previously been unable to reach a breakthrough. A deal was finally reached in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Al Jazeera said, after a number of Gaddafi supporters left the besieged town.

With anti-Gaddafi forces massed around the town for days, the face-off had been seen as an important indicator of the NTC's ability to put tribal divisions aside and negotiate a peaceful handover, or risk a sliding back into bloodshed.

The town is a stronghold for the powerful Warfalla tribe of about one million people, which had remained loyal to the ousted regime.

(Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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