Zuma condemns NATO airstrikes on Tripoli
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Last Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2011, 09:23
  
Tripoli: South African President Jacob Zuma has strongly condemned NATO after it resumed its airstrike on the Libyan capital of Tripoli, blasting at least two targets, after military leaders voiced concerns about sustaining the operations if the alliance mission drags on.

The targets of the late yesterday night airstrikes were not immediately clear, and there was no word about casualties.

East of the capital, alliance aircraft have begun dropping leaflets warning government troops to abandon their posts outside Zlitan, which lies just west of the rebel-held port city of Misrata.

Rebel forces have been advancing along the Mediterranean coast toward Zlitan, but say they have been instructed by NATO to withdraw ahead of expected bombing runs to old front lines in Dafniya.

The 3-by-5 inch leaflets intended for forces loyal to Gaddafi carry the NATO symbol and a picture of an Apache attack helicopter and burning tanks on one side. Green Arabic writing warns, "There's no place to hide. It's not too late to stop fighting. If you continue to threaten civilians, you will face destruction." The message on the reverse urges soldiers to "stop and stay away from fighting now."

A reporter near the front line said NATO fighter jets were be heard overhead.

If the rebels take Zlitan, they would be within 135 kilometers of the eastern outskirts of Tripoli. A rebel official said opposition leaders in Zlitan have been meeting with their counterparts in Misrata, but he acknowledged they face challenges in advancing on the city.

"We need the people of Zlitan to push more courageously forward. They are dependent on our movements, but the problem is only a third of that city is with the rebels," said Ibrahim Beatelmal, a rebel military spokesman in Misrata.

On Monday, NATO said attack helicopters struck two of Gadhafi's military boats off the coast of Misrata, as well as military vehicles and equipment concealed beneath trees in Zlitan.

NATO's nearly three-month air campaign has grounded Gaddafi's air forces and weakened his military capabilities.

But there are signs the pace of operations has put a strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance.

In London, the head of the Royal Navy warned that the British fleet a key contributor to the Libya mission will be unable to maintain the pace of operations if the mission drags on until the end of the year.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2011, 09:23


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