West will end Libyan conflict: Obama

Last Updated: Friday, May 27, 2011 - 16:35

Tripoli: The United States and France are united in their resolve to finish the job in Libya, US President Barack Obama said on Friday, after Tripoli offered a truce but not Muammar Gaddafi`s departure.

Two international rights groups, meanwhile, said on Friday Gaddafi`s forces are indiscriminately attacking towns in the Nafusa mountains of western Libya, sending residents fleeing, with some being forced to live in caves.

"We are joined in our resolve to finish the job," Obama said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville.

Obama and Sarkozy said they have a convergence of views of a series of key issues during their talks, which lasted around 45 minutes, just before the wider summit considered the implications of the Arab Spring.

"We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign," Obama said.

But the US leader warned that the "UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people."

"We are joined in resolve to finish the job."

The United States provided the bulk of the firepower blitz which launched the NATO campaign in Libya, but has since taken on a support role with European nations, especially France and Britain to the fore.

The leaders of the G8 powers were to tell Gaddafi on Friday that he has lost all legitimacy and must step down, according to a draft version of their summit statement.

The leaders were still meeting, and it was not immediately clear if they would authorise the strong language in the draft, with Russia in particular keen to promote a negotiated settlement to the Libya civil conflict.

The commander of the NATO mission in the north African nation said meanwhile that Gaddafi`s forces have laid landmines around the rebel-held city of Misrata.

"This morning`s reports showed that a minefield was laid in the Misrata area," Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard told a Brussels news conference.

A medic in Misrata said that Gaddafi`s forces had on Thursday launched Grad rocket attacks killing three people and wounding 20 on the outskirts of Libya`s second city, which was besieged for more than two months until rebels recaptured it.

"Three people were killed and 20 wounded, including a child, in Dafnia," a few kilometres (miles) west of Misrata on the road to Zliten, the medic said.

"They were struck by long-range missiles," he said.

The Libyan regime on Thursday said Tripoli was seeking a monitored ceasefire.

"We have asked the United Nations and the African Union to set a date and specific hours for a ceasefire, to send international observers and take the necessary measures" to end combat, Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi said.

Mahmudi, speaking to reporters in Tripoli, said previous "ceasefires announced by the regime have not been respected by any of the parties." This time the government wanted "all sides to stop fighting, especially NATO”.

He ruled out Gaddafi`s exit.

"Muammar Gaddafi is in the heart of all Libyans. If he goes, they all go," he said, adding that the leader was "in good health" and operating without any restrictions on his movements.

African leaders gathered at a Libya-focused summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Thursday called for an end to NATO air strikes to pave the way for a political solution to the north African nation`s protracted conflict.

NATO, however, insisted it would keep up its air raids in Libya until Gaddafi`s forces stop attacking civilians and until the regime`s proposed ceasefire is matched by its actions on the ground.

A report said fighter jets overflew Tripoli late Thursday and five powerful explosions rocked the Bab Al-Aziziya district, where embattled Gaddafi has his residence.

Russia said the Libyan government had contacted it to negotiate a deal and was pursuing contacts with the regime, although western officials said Moscow had not been formally asked to mediate.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Friday that Gaddafi`s forces have been pounding towns in the Nafusa mountains of western Libya, firing Grad rockets, which are an "an inherently indiscriminate weapon," and "forcing people to leave the area and even live in caves."

"Grad rocket attacks are launched almost every day into residential areas with no discernible military target," said Sarah Lea Whitson, Middle East and north Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Another advocacy group, Amnesty International, said the Nafusa mountain towns have been "under siege and under fire" since early March but fighting between rebels and troops loyal to the regime intensified mid-April sending thousands of people fleeing to Tunisia.

Residents, most of them who belong to the Amazigh minority, have been struggling to survive from goods smuggled from Tunisia but fighting has blocked strategic passages complicating access to food, electricity, water, medicine and fuel, Amnesty said in a report.

The London-based rights watchdog said it also had documented cases of "enforced disappearances”, particularly of young men who are believed to have been snatched by Gaddafi`s forces.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, May 27, 2011 - 16:35

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