They’ve lost the last couple of points in Barbary ping-pong. The rebels were exposed in the media as a hollow, amateur scrub army. And after NATO threatened to bomb the rebels, the US is withdrawing close air support, which is pretty much the only chance the rebels have of pushing Gaddafi’s much larger army back or defeating it. It’s in that context that the Libyan rebels are calling for a ceasefire.

Libyan rebels called for a cease- fire as forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi drove them back for a third day after sandstorms and clouds hindered NATO air strikes and the U.S. said it would withdraw all warplanes.

Qaddafi’s fighters must retreat from cities and nearby areas for any cease-fire deal, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel Interim National Council, said in a news conference televised today from the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi. He said rebel demands for freedoms must also be met. There was no immediate response to the offer from Qaddafi officials.

A Libyan official said Qaddafi’s regime was trying to hold discussions with the U.S., France and Britain to find an end to the conflict, the Associated Press reported.