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Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Risk-Free And Above The Law: U.S. Globalizes Drone Warfare

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25536

Global Research, July 7, 2011

Last week the Washington Post, the New York Times and other major American newspapers reported that the U.S. launched its first unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) missile attack inside Somalia.

The strike was the first acknowledged Pentagon military attack inside the Horn of Africa nation since a helicopter raid staged by commandos in 2009 and the first use of an American drone to conduct a missile strike there. Drones had earlier been used in the country in their original capacity, for surveillance, including identifying targets for bomb and missile attacks, one being shot down in October of 2009. But as Britain’s The Guardian reported on July 30, the strike in Somalia marked “the expansion of the pilotless war campaign to a sixth country,” as the remote-controlled aircraft have already been employed to deadly effect in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and most recently Libya.

The lethal Somali mission was reportedly carried out by the U.S. Special Operations Command, in charge of executing special forces operations of the respective units of the four main branches of the American military: The Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy. On July 4 the U.S. armed forces publication Stars and Stripes reported that there are currently 7,000 American special forces in Afghanistan and another 3,000 in Iraq, with the bulk of the latter to be transferred to the first country in what was described as a “mini-surge” of special operations troops to compensate for the withdrawal of 10,000 other troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Last week BBC News reported on the proposed transfer of drone aircraft by the U.S. to its military client states Uganda and Burundi for the war in Somalia. Citing American defense officials, BBC disclosed that four drones will be supplied to the two nations who have 9,000 troops engaged in combat operations against anti-government insurgents in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

According to a New York Times feature of July 1: “[T]he United States has largely been relying on proxy forces in Somalia, including African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, to support Somalia’s fragile government. The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military supplies, including night-vision equipment and four small unarmed drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help combat the rising terror threat in Somalia. During the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2007, clandestine operatives from the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command initiated missions into Somalia from an airstrip in Ethiopia.”

On June 15 a major newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, The National, reported on the escalation of deadly U.S. drone attacks in Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. It cited an official with the Yemeni Ministry of Defense claiming that the U.S. had launched over 15 drone strikes in the country in the first two weeks of June. The newspaper also quoted the deputy governor of Abyan province, Abdullah Luqman, decrying the attacks and stating: “These are the lives of innocent people being killed. At least 130 people have been killed in the last two weeks by US drones.”

The leader of an observation committee created to evacuate local residents added that “more than 40,000 people have left Abyan province because they feared drone strikes.”

The same defense official mentioned above warned that the “United States is turning Yemen into another Pakistan.” [1]

Recent reports in the American press reveal that the Pentagon will establish a new air base in the Persian Gulf from which to intensify drone strikes in Yemen. According to a Russian source, “The location is kept secret but some say this might be Bahrain as it already has a US base [the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet] and provides the safest route to Yemen for US drones through American ally Saudi Arabia.” [2]

The drone missile assaults in Pakistan, which caused a record number of deaths – over 1,000 – last year, are carried out by the Special Activities Division of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose last director is the new secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, a transfer that presages a yet greater intensification of the deadly attacks inside the South Asian nation.

On June 5 the 40th drone strike of the year killed at least six people in South Waziristan in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bringing the death toll this year to at least 350.

Late last month the Pakistani government ordered the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi Air Base in the province of Balochistan which had been used for drone strikes inside the nation. Washington has in the interim shifted those operations to upgraded air bases in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only 3 percent of Pakistanis support the drone attacks in the country’s tribal belt.

At the end of June, 28 people were reported killed by drone strikes in the South Waziristan Agency, with a local resident quoted by Pajhwok Afghan News as stating “that 20 civilians were killed and several others injured in the second attack.” [3]

Some 2,100 of the 2,500 people killed in the strikes since they began in 2004 have lost their lives since 2009, when Barack Obama became the president of the U.S. and Leon Panetta director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

On July 5 a British Reaper drone killed at least four Afghan civilians and wounded two more in a missile attack in Helmand province. The use of the Reaper, rightly referred to as the world’s deadliest drone, marks the crossing of an ominous threshold. It is the first of what is described as a hunter-killer – long-endurance, high-altitude – remote-piloted aircraft that can be equipped with fifteen times the amount of weaponry and fly at three times the speed of the Predator used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. (The U.S. has used Reapers in Iraq since 2008 and in Afghanistan starting the following year. Toward the end of 2009 the Pentagon deployed Reapers to the East African island nation of Seychelles along with over 100 military personnel.)

On June 28 the U.S. lost the third of three drones in Afghanistan in as many days.

A recent Refugees International report stated that over 250,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their towns and villages during the last two years, over 91,000 so far this year: “Not only have NATO-led troops and Afghan forces failed to protect Afghans, but international airstrikes and night raids by U.S. Special Forces were destroying homes, crops and infrastructure, traumatising civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people.” [4]

Last month an RT feature suitably titled “US expands drone war, extremists expect new recruits” stated:

“The US has stepped up its drone attacks against militants in the Middle East, but the growing number of civilian deaths in the strikes has sparked public anger, with concern the action is driving up the number of extremist recruits.

“In Pakistan, CIA drone strikes aim at terrorists but end up killing mostly civilians. Public outrage is growing. Hatred and anger foster more terror.

“Washington now sees Yemen as the most dangerous Al-Qaeda outpost, and is planning to step up drone attacks on the country, establishing a base in the Persian Gulf specifically for that purpose.”

The source added:

“Americans are likely to have a freer hand going it alone, with the CIA to take a central role.

“As the agency is not subject to the accountability the US military is legally under, one can expect more bombs to fall on Yemen.

“There is fury in Yemen over the killing of scores of civilians by the drone strikes. In one attack there, the American military presumably aiming at an Al-Qaeda training camp ended up killing dozens of women and children. In another strike a year ago, a drone mistakenly killed a deputy governor in Yemen, his family and aides.

“With the expansion of the drone war it seems the US is seeking only a missile solution to fighting Al-Qaeda. Analysts say that some of the main features of this global chase are not having to take into account the voice of the nation that they are bombing and the lack of accountability when it comes to civilian deaths. These features add more paradox to the US strategy, with many asking whether America is fighting and fostering terror at the same time.” [5]

Analyst Denis Fedutinov told Voice of Russia last month:

“The US used drones already in the Balkans campaign, then in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in Libya. The US and Israel are the world drone leaders. Now America has several thousand drones of different classes.” [6]

In fact, last year U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Glenn Walters told an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement conference that ten years ago America had 200 drones in its arsenal, but by 2010 that number had risen to 6,000 and that by next year it would be 8,000. A fortyfold increase.

And in May of 2010 “NATO representatives from around the world” visited the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in the state of Indiana to observe drone flight tests.

By transferring control of the 110-day war against Libya from U.S. Africa Command to NATO on March 31 the Obama administration intended to, among other purposes, evade accountability to Congress (and federal law) under provisions of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

The resolution mandates that Congress must authorize military actions initiated by the president within 60 days of their commencement or grant him a 30-day extension. The 60-day limit was reached on May 20.

The White House responded to Congressional opposition to prolonging military action in Libya by releasing a 38-page report that claimed “US military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the resolution’s 60-day termination provision.”

It also maintained that “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”

Which is to say, as long as American military personnel are not in harm’s way it is not a war. Legal Adviser of the State Department Harold Koh stated: “We are acting lawfully…We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”

General Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa Command, last month “said a Republican-sponsored bill that would block American Predator drone strikes in Libya would hurt the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance,” and “predicted that NATO would be unable to replace certain key U.S. missions, including the drone strikes and attacks to neutralize Libyan air defenses that threaten allied planes, if proposed funding cuts are made.” [7]

The launching of over 200 cruise missiles into Libya in the opening days of the war and the fact that, as the New York Times reported on June 21, “American warplanes have struck at Libyan air defenses about 60 times, and remotely operated drones have fired missiles at Libyan forces about 30 times” since command of the war was transferred from U.S. Africa Command to NATO – after which NATO has conducted over 14,000 air missions, more than 5,000 termed strike sorties – do not constitute armed hostilities in the mind of Mr. Koh, who stated last year that “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top legal adviser, deadly drone attacks are “consistent with its [the U.S.’s] inherent right to self-defense.” [8] Koh cagily refers to murdering people on a grand scale by remote activation as targeted killing rather than targeted assassination, as the second is expressly prohibited under international law.

In a rare instance of dissenting from White House war policy, last month the New York Times published the following:

“Jack L. Goldsmith, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration, said the Obama theory would set a precedent expanding future presidents’ unauthorized war-making powers, especially given the rise of remote-controlled combat technology.”

It further quoted Goldsmith directly:

“The administration’s theory implies that the president can wage war with drones and all manner of offshore missiles without having to bother with the War Powers Resolution’s time limits.”

Neither cruise missiles nor Hellfire missile-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles have pilots on board, so the lives of U.S. service members are safe as Pakistanis, Afghans, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis and Somalis are torn to shreds by U.S. strikes.

Wars of aggression are now both safe and “legal.”

Notes
 

1) The National, June 15, 2011

http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/middle-east/us-makes-a-drone-attack-a-day-in-yemen

2) Voice of Russia, June 16, 2011
3) Pajhwok Afghan News, June 28, 2011
4) NATO airstrikes, night raids blamed for Afghan IDP crisis – report
AlertNet, June 29, 2011
5) RT, June 22, 2011 http://rt.com/news/us-drone-war-al-qaeda

6) Voice of Russia, June 16, 2011
7) Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011
8) Inside Justice, March 26, 2011 
http://insidejustice.com/law/index.php/intl/2010/03/26/asil_koh_drone_war_law

Rick Rozoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Rick Rozoff

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Western, Arab talks to focus on Libya “end-game”

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110608/wl_nm/us_libya

By Khaled al-Ramahi Wed Jun 8, 6:20 pm ET

MISRATA (Reuters) – Western and Arab nations meet in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to focus on what one U.S. official called the “end-game” for Libya‘s Muammar Gaddafi as NATO once again stepped up the intensity of its air raids on Tripoli.

NATO air strikes resumed in Tripoli on Wednesday night after a lull that followed the heaviest day of bombings since March. Thousands of Gaddafi troops advanced on Misrata on Wednesday, shelling it from three sides and killing at least 12 rebels.

Ministers from the so-called Libya contact group, including the United States, France and Britain, as well as Arab allies Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, agreed in May to set up a fund to help the rebels in the civil war.

They are expected to firm up this commitment in the United Arab Emirates capital and press the rebels to give a detailed plan on how they would run the country if Gaddafi stood down as leader of the oil producing North African desert state.

“The international community is beginning to talk about what could constitute end-game to this,” one senior U.S. official told reporters aboard U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s plane which landed in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.

“That would obviously include some kind of ceasefire arrangement and some kind of political process … and of course the question of Gaddafi and perhaps his family is also a key part of that,” the U.S. official said.

Both Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) and its Western allies have rejected Libyan government ceasefire offers that do not include Gaddafi’s departure, saying he and his family must relinquish power before any talks can begin.

The U.S. official said there have been general discussions about what might happen to Gaddafi but nothing specific on “where he should go, or whether he should remain in Libya for that matter.”

U.S. officials on Wednesday announced delivery of the TNC’s first U.S. oil sale, part of a broader strategy they hope will get money flowing to the cash starved group.

U.S. oil refiner Tesoro announced in May it had purchased the 1.2 million barrel cargo, which U.S. officials said was due to arrive in Hawaii on Wednesday aboard a tanker chartered by Swiss oil trader Vitol.

“PRESSURE WILL INCREASE”

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who will be at the Abu Dhabi talks, said the group would be briefed by the International Stabilisation Response Team which is helping the rebel council plan for post-conflict rebuilding.

“The contact group will also reiterate the unequivocal message … that Gaddafi, his family and his regime have lost all legitimacy and must go so that the Libyan people can determine their own future,” Burt said.

“Until Gaddafi does so, the pressure will increase across the board: economically, politically and militarily.”

NATO defense ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday, but there were few signs of willingness to intensify their Libya mission, which after four months has failed to oust Gaddafi.

The alliance says the bombing aims to protect civilians from the Libyan leader’s military, which crushed popular protests against his rule in February, leaving many dead. The conflict has now become a civil war.

Gaddafi says the rebels are a minority of Islamist militants and the NATO campaign is an attempt to grab Libya’s oil.

On the battlefront, forces loyal to Gaddafi were staging a big push on Misrata. “He has sent thousands of troops from all sides and they are trying to enter the city. They are still outside, though, ” rebel spokesman Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters from inside the besieged town.

Another rebel spokesman in Misrata, called Mohammed, told Reuters late on Wednesday they were still in control of the city despite the assault.

Spain joined other Western and Arab governments in recognizing the Benghazi-based council as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

Gaddafi troops and the rebels have been deadlocked for weeks, with neither side able to hold territory on a road between Ajdabiyah in the east, which Gaddafi forces shelled on Monday, and the Gaddafi-held oil town of Brega further west.

Rebels control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and the range of western mountains near the border with Tunisia. They have been unable to advance on the capital against Gaddafi’s better-equipped forces.

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff in Tripoli, Adrian Croft in London and Andrew Quinn in Abu Dhabi; writing by John Irish, editing by Peter Millership)

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Syrian troops move on restive town, West alarmed

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110607/wl_nm/us_syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis 1 hr 4 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian troops with tanks moved on Tuesday toward a town where the government has vowed to quell a revolt after accusing gunmen of killing scores of security men.

Though accounts of days of bloodshed in Jisr al-Shughour ranged from an official version of gunmen ambushing troops to residents’ reports of an army mutiny, the risk seemed to be growing of even greater violence than that which has left over 1,100 Syrians dead since popular unrest began three months ago.

France took a lead in proposing U.N. moves against President Bashar al-Assad. But Russia, citing NATO’s inconclusive war on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said it would veto intervention against Syria in the United Nations Security Council.

Despite enthusiasm for pro-democracy movements that have unseated dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, few Western leaders — let alone their autocratic Arab partners — have shown a will to intervene in Syria, an Iranian ally whose volatile mix of ethnic and religious groups sits astride a web of regional conflicts.

Assad’s family and supporters from the minority Alawite sect have dominated Syria since his late father seized power 41 years ago. He has responded with promises of reform, and a security crackdown on protesters in towns across the country.

The government has expelled independent journalists, making it hard to determine clearly what is happening in the country.

DIPLOMATIC MOVES

Tuesday, local residents said a column of armoured vehicles and troops, apparently heading for Jisr al-Shughour, had reached the town of Ariha, 25 km (16 miles) to the east, a day after Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said army units would carry out their “national duty to restore security.”

Western powers have raised the alarm. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament: “President Assad is losing legitimacy and should reform or step aside.” He said European governments were looking at further sanctions.

For France, Britain’s ally in the air war against Gaddafi and the former colonial power in Syria, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris was ready to ask the U.N. Security Council to condemn Syria: “The process of reform is dead and we think that Bashar has lost his legitimacy to rule the country.

“We’ll see what the Russians will do. If they veto, they will take their responsibility. Maybe if they see that there are 11 votes in favor of the resolution, they will change their mind. So there is a risk to take and we’re ready to take it.”

The United States has also said Assad should reform or go.

But in Brussels, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, said: “The prospect of a U.N. Security Council resolution that’s along the same lines as Resolution 1973 on Libya will not be supported by my country … The use of force, as Libya shows, does not provide answers.”

Veto-holding Russia abstained on the Libya vote, allowing NATO to begin a bombing campaign that Western powers say saved civilians in rebel-held Benghazi from an onslaught by Gaddafi’s forces, but which has failed to dislodge the Libyan leader.

Just what has happened in Jisr al-Shughour, which lies in the northeast close to the Turkish border, remains unclear.

Official accounts say gunmen roaming the town and setting fire to government buildings had inflicted an extremely high death toll of over 120 on security men, said to have been killed in an ambush and attacks on a post office and a security post.

State television aired footage of at least five dead soldiers and police who it said were victims of an “ambush by armed gangs.” Voices are heard in the video cursing the dead men and describing how they were killed.

“I stabbed them, I stabbed the three of them,” said a man who was not seen on camera.

But residents and anti-government activists disputed the government account, saying the casualties followed a mutiny among forces sent to quell civilian protests. Assad loyalists and mutineers then fought each other around the town, they said.

Other footage posted on You Tube showed bodies of at least three soldiers and voices off camera say they were killed by fellow-security force members for refusing to fire on civilians.

PAST VIOLENCE

Fears of a sharp increase in the level of violence are informed by memories of 1982, when the forces of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, crushed an armed Islamist revolt in the city of Hama, killing many thousands and razing the town’s old center.

Jisr al-Shughour residents said violence began when scores of civilians were killed in a crackdown on the hill town on a road between Syria’s second city Aleppo and the port of Latakia.

They said security men had raided homes and made scores of arbitrary arrests after the largest pro-democracy protest yet held in the town, Friday. At least five people were killed.

The killings enraged the townsfolk and prompted defections from security police and troops belonging, like most people in Jisr al-Shugour, to Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, they said. Assad and many of his army and security commanders are Alawites.

Neighboring countries, including Israel and Turkey, worry about any chaos that could set off sectarian conflict and the emergence of violent, radical Islamists, as happened in nearby Iraq after the U.S. invasion of 2003.

“Military intelligence agents and security police stormed the town Monday. Snipers began firing at people who dared go out in the streets. Bodies lay in the streets. Around 100 police and soldiers defected and stood with us,” one resident said by phone, adding that six military intelligence agents were killed.

He said pro-Assad Alawite gunmen from neighboring villages, known as ‘shabbiha’, had been seen around Jisr al-Shughour.

Many analysts with close contacts on the ground inside Syria were reluctant to be identified when interviewed. One analyst based in Damascus said violence by security forces, who are also detaining and torturing people, was creating a violent backlash.

“Growing numbers of protesters have been pushed to take up arms, which are also being smuggled into the country at an alarming pace,” said the analyst, who works for an international organization.

The Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said the 120 people killed were mostly civilians, or troops apparently shot dead by security agents who refused to join in the crackdown.

“The authorities are repeating their pattern of killings. They choose the town or city where demonstrations have been most vibrant and punish the population,” a Sawasiah spokesman said.

ARMY MUTINY?

Wissam Tarif, director of human rights organization Insan, said the fighting pitted rival army units against each other.

“An army unit or division arrived in the area in the morning. It seems then another unit arrived to contain the mutiny,” Tarif told Reuters. He said he had spoken to several people in Jisr al-Shughour who confirmed that account.

A Western diplomat in the region said he took the mutiny reports seriously, although he had no first-hand knowledge of events in Jisr al-Shughour. “It is plausible that the violent response to the protesters is causing widening cracks on sectarian lines within the army,” he said.

Rights groups say security forces, troops and gunmen loyal to Assad have killed 1,100 civilians since protests erupted in the southern city of Deraa on March 18. Unrest later spread to the Mediterranean coast and eastern Kurdish regions.

Assad has made some reformist gestures, such as issuing a general amnesty to political prisoners and launching a national dialogue, but protesters and opposition figures have dismissed such measures, saying thousands of political prisoners remain in jail and there can be no dialogue while repression continues.

Another resident, a history teacher who gave his name as Ahmed, said clashes had begun Saturday when snipers on the roof of the post office fired at a funeral for six protesters killed the day before. Mourners then set the post office ablaze.

State television said eight members of the security forces were killed when gunmen attacked the post office building.

It said at least 20 more were killed in an ambush by “armed gangs,” and 82 in an attack on a security post. It said the overall death toll for security forces topped 120.

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Yara Bayoumy in Beirut; editing by Alistair Lyon and Alastair Macdonald)

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Waves of NATO aircraft intensify strikes on Tripoli

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110607/wl_nm/us_libya

By Peter Graff 2 hrs 27 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Waves of NATO aircraft hit Tripoli on Tuesday in the most sustained bombardment of the Libyan capital since Western forces began air strikes in March.

By Tuesday afternoon, war planes were striking different parts of the city several times an hour, hour after hour, rattling windows and sending clouds of grey smoke into the sky, a Reuters correspondent in the center of the city said.

The Libyan government attributed earlier blasts to NATO air strikes on military compounds in the capital, a day after rebels drove Muammar Gaddafi‘s forces out of a western town.

Bombs have been striking the city every few hours since Monday, at a steadily increasing pace. On Tuesday they began before 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) and were continuing five hours later.

Air strikes were previously rarer and usually at night.

Some of the bombs appeared to hit in the vicinity of Gaddafi’s vast Bab al-Aziziya residential compound.

A Libyan official, speaking over a loudspeaker in a hotel where foreign journalists stay under government supervision, said some strikes had hit the Popular Guard compound and the Revolutionary Guard compound, giving no comment on casualties.

A NATO military official in Naples, headquarters of the alliance’s Libya operation, confirmed the current strikes were the heaviest on Tripoli so far.

“Definitely there are more strikes going into Tripoli than there have been in the past … This is just to increase the pressure on the Gaddafi regime and it’s been going on like this for a couple of days now …”

“The targets we are striking are the same types as … in the past — command and control, ammunition storage, vehicle storage — any function or system the Gaddafi regime can use to attack civilians.”

Libyan TV said late on Monday NATO had bombed the al-Karama neighbourhood and a civilian telecommunications station.

NATO said it hit a military “command and control target.”

Further east, Gaddafi’s troops and the rebels have been in stalemate for weeks, neither able to hold territory on a road between Ajdabiyah, which Gaddafi’s forces shelled on Monday, and the Gaddafi-held oil town of Brega further west.

Rebels control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and the range of mountains near the border with Tunisia. They have been unable to advance on the capital against Gaddafi’s better-equipped forces, despite NATO air strikes.

DIPLOMATIC CONTACT WITH REBELS

But world powers are increasingly making diplomatic overtures to the rebels, including Russia and China — despite misgivings about interference in Libya’s sovereign affairs.

Mikhail Margelov, Special Representative for the President of Russia for Africa, told journalists in the rebel capital of Benghazi on Tuesday that Gaddafi can no longer represent Libya.

“We highly believe that Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy after the first bullet shot against the Libyan people,” he said.

“Russia is ready to help politically, economically and in any possible way … That is why we have established a direct relationship with the national council here in Benghazi.”

In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said an Egypt-based Chinese diplomat had visited Benghazi for talks with the rebel-led National Transitional Council, adding to signs that China too is courting the insurgents.

China has officially declined to take sides, but its moves reflect growing recognition that Gaddafi’s days in power may be numbered, said Yin Gang, an expert on Arab affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Libya’s pro-Gaddafi Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi is visiting China as a “special envoy” for his government and will hold talks with his counterpart Yang Jiechi on “the situation in Libya and (finding) a political solution to the Libyan crisis,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement that France — the first country to recognize the rebels — sees the National Transitional Council as representative of Libya.

“After being found guilty of the most serious crimes against the Libyan people, in breach of international law, authorities related to Col. Gaddafi cannot claim any role in representing the Libyan state,” Juppe said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez will travel to Benghazi to meet rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Wednesday, her ministry said.

ICG URGES CEASEFIRE

Western governments and rebels say a combination of NATO air strikes, diplomatic isolation and grassroots opposition will eventually end Gaddafi’s rule.

Gaddafi refuses to step down, saying he is supported by all Libyans apart from a minority of “rats” and al Qaeda fighters, and that NATO strikes are a Western plot to steal Libya’s oil.

In a report on Monday, the International Crisis Group (ICG) urged the rebels and their NATO allies to propose a ceasefire, arguing that demands that Gaddafi step down as a pre-condition and threats of war crimes charges had forced him into a corner.

“The (rebels) and their NATO supporters appear uninterested in resolving the conflict through negotiation,” it said.

“To insist that he (Gaddafi) go now, as the precondition for any negotiation … is to render a ceasefire all but impossible and so to maximize the prospect of continued armed conflict. To insist that he both leave … and face trial in the International Criminal Court is virtually to ensure that he will stay in Libya to the bitter end and go down fighting.”

In a sign NATO strikes may be aiding the rebel advance, the rebels seized Yafran, 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Tripoli, on Monday, after British warplanes had destroyed two tanks and two armored personnel carriers there on June 2.

In Brussels on Monday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he would repeat calls for NATO allies to boost involvement at an alliance defense ministers meeting this week.

NATO decided last week to extend operations in Libya until the end of September.

(Additional reporting by Sherine El Madany in Benghazi, Youssef Boudlal in Yafran, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Justyna Pawlak in Brussels, Elizabeth Pineau in Paris, Tim Cocks in Tunis, Chris Buckley in Beijing and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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Libya’s Gaddafi vows to fight to the death

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110607/wl_nm/us_libya_gaddafi

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed on Tuesday in a speech broadcast live on state television to fight to the end, after NATO intensified air strikes on Tripoli.

“We only have one choice: we will stay in our land dead or alive,” he said in the fiery audio address, calling on his supporters to flock to his Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Waves of NATO aircraft hit the Libyan capital on Tuesday, including targets in the vicinity of the vast Bab al-Aziziya residential compound, in the most sustained bombardment of the Libyan capital since Western forces began air strikes in March.

Describing planes flying overhead and explosions around him, Gaddafi was defiant.

“We are stronger than your missiles, stronger than your planes and the voice of the Libyan people is louder than explosions,” he said in his customary impassioned tone.

He said he was ready to unleash between 250,000 to 500,00 armed Libyans to swarm across the country to cleanse it from “armed gangs,” a reference to the rebels controlling the east of the North African oil producer.

Gaddafi was last seen on state television on May 30 in footage of him meeting South African President Jacob Zuma.

By Tuesday afternoon, warplanes were striking different parts of Tripoli several times an hour, rattling windows and sending clouds of grey smoke into the sky, a Reuters correspondent in the center of the city said.

“Whether we are martyred, killed or commit suicide, we care about our duty toward history,” Gaddafi said, demanding to know why the bombardment was continuing.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Fresh NATO raids target Libyan capital

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110528/ts_afp/libyaconflict_20110528083220

Fresh NATO raids target Libyan capital
 Smoke billows behind the trees following an air raid on the area of Tajura, east of Tripoli on May 24
by Imed Lamloum 51 mins ago

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Fresh NATO-led air strikes on Saturday targeted the district of Tripoli where Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has his residence, after G8 world powers intensified the pressure on the strongman to step down.

For the fourth successive night, powerful blasts rocked Bab Al-Aziziya near the city centre, an AFP correspondent said as Libyan state media reported air raids on the Al-Qariet region south of the capital.

The strikes came after US President Barack Obama told a summit of G8 world powers that the United States and France were committed to finishing the job in Libya, as Russia finally joined explicit calls for Kadhafi to go.

Russia’s dramatic shift — and an offer to mediate — came as British Prime Minister David Cameron said the NATO mission against Kadhafi was entering a new phase with the deployment of helicopter gunships to the conflict.

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

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

G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US called in their final statement for Kadhafi to step down after more than 40 years, in the face of pro-democracy protests turned full-fledged armed revolt.

“Kadhafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfil their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go,” it said.

But the Libyan regime rejected the call and said any initiative to resolve the crisis would have to go through the African Union.

“The G8 is an economic summit. We are not concerned by its decisions,” said Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaaim.

Tripoli also rejected Russian mediation and will “not accept any mediation which marginalises the peace plan of the African Union,” he said. “We are an African country. Any initiative outside the AU framework will be rejected.”

Kaaim said it had no confirmation of a change in Moscow’s position after President Dmitry Medvedev toughened Russia’s stance at the G8 meeting by declaring: “The world community does not see him as the Libyan leader.”

African leaders at a summit in Addis Ababa on Thursday called for an end to NATO air strikes on Libya to pave the way for a political solution to the conflict.

The pan-African bloc also sought a stronger say in resolving the conflict.

Kaaim meanwhile confirmed the visit on Monday of South African President Jacob Zuma, without indicating whether the exit of Kadhafi from power would be discussed as the South Africans have claimed.

On Thursday, the Libyan regime said Tripoli wanted a monitored ceasefire.

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

Meanwhile Kadhafi’s wife Sofia on Friday slammed strikes against the Libyan leader and his family, and accused NATO forces of “committing war crimes” with its action against the regime.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa said there was a yawning gap between Tripoli and the rebel National Transitional Council on Kadhafi’s fate, with the rebels demanding he go immediately and the regime saving his exit for “later.”

“I was not there. But I wished that I was so I may die with him,” she told CNN in a telephone interview, describing the reported death of her son Seif al-Arab from a NATO air strike.

“My son never missed an evening prayer. We had strikes every day, and the strikes would start at evening prayer. Four rockets on one house!” she said in the rare interview.

International forces, which have been attacking Kadhafi forces under the terms of a UN resolution to protect civilians, “are looking for excuses to target Moamer. What has he done to deserve this?” asked Sofia.

NATO, she said, is “committing war crimes” in the North Africa country.

“They killed my son and the Libyan people. They are defaming our reputation, she said.

“Forty countries are against us. Life has no value anymore,” she lamented, in the wake of her son’s death.

Doubts have been raised in recent days of the veracity of reports on Seif al-Arab, Kadhafi’s youngest son, being dead.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pointed out Wednesday that the international coalition had no information on his demise, and said the report from a Libyan government spokesman was “propaganda.”

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Gaddafi, Lies and Video Tape: Libya and the Rumor Mill

Posted by Admin on May 15, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110514/wl_time/08599207152300;_ylt=Ar_gdLahkMDjCxsglLEGEilvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJtMjUxODRmBGFzc2V0A3RpbWUvMjAxMTA1MTQvMDg1OTkyMDcxNTIzMDAEcG9zAzI5BHNlYwN5bl9hcnRpY2xlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDZ2FkZGFmaWxpZXNh

Truth, as they say, is the first casualty of war. Yet even by those measures, the three-month Libyan conflict has brought a wealth of rumors.

Just five days after the revolt erupted in Benghazi, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that Gaddafi was headed to Venezuela. His remarks sparked a media frenzy, with journalists converging on Caracas to await Gaddafi’s arrival in exile. Three days later, on Feb. 24, commodities traders said that oil and gold prices had dropped due to rumors that Gaddafi had been injured. Oil prices dropped again on March 7, after rumors that Gaddafi was scrambling to negotiate an exile deal for himself. And on March 21, days after Western fighter jets began bombing Tripoli, a German newspaper reported that a rocket attack had killed Gaddafi’s son Khamis, whose military brigade has led the assault against Libyan rebels. So far, none of the rumors have proved true. (See TIME’s exclusive photos on the ground in Tripoli.)

The latest tale surfaced last Friday, when Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told an Italian reporter that Muammar Gaddafi had fled Tripoli after being wounded in a NATO air strike on his compound the day before. Frattini said he heard the information from Tripoli’s Catholic Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, a Libyan-born Italian with close sources across the capital, thanks to his decades in the country. The Bishop, said Frattini, had said that “international pressure has apparently provoked a decision by Gaddafi to seek refuge in a safer place.”

The rumor lit up Twitter feeds and led to a few celebrations – premature ones. Within hours, Gaddafi went on state-run Libyan Television to tell his supporters that he was still alive, and to vow to survive the NATO campaign. “I live where you cannot reach and cannot kill me – in the hearts of millions of people,” Gaddafi said in a defiant challenge to the coalition. Bishop Martinelli denied the story Frattini attributed to him, telling a French radio station on Saturday that “I’ve never said he [Gaddafi] was injured or had left Tripoli.” (Watch Libya’s ragtag rebels in action.)

The speech included no video. An unnamed regime official told the Guardian newspaper on Saturday that Gaddafi was worried that video footage could help NATO bombers to pinpoint his exact whereabouts. Gaddafi’s statement on Friday was a stark contrast to his wartime television appearances, where he has summoned television crews to film him giving thundering diatribes against the rebels and Western governments. And unlike those hours-long speeches, he spoke for just 90 seconds, igniting speculation among rebel and exile groups that Gaddafi had indeed gone to ground.

Wounded or not, Gaddafi may soon have a legal reason to be out of sight. On Saturday, the International Criminal Court‘s prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told a Spanish newspaper that he would seek arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief Abdullah Senoussi, when he goes before a judges’ panel in The Hague on Monday. If the warrants are issued, the three men would face extradition orders to stand trial in Holland, for having ordered security forces to open fire on unarmed demonstrators in Benghazi in mid-February. U.N. investigators claim that between 400 and 600 Libyans were killed in the first days of the revolt, before the rebels took up weapons, transforming the protest movement into a civil war.

Bringing Gaddafi and company to justice is going to be a tall order. But a warrant and NATO bombs are enough reasons for anyone to go into hiding.

See TIME’s photos of Gaddafi’s Tripoli.

See TIME’s special report “The Middle East in Revolt.”

View this article on Time.com

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Libyan forces pound Misrata, 1,000 evacuated by sea

Posted by Admin on April 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110418/wl_nm/us_libya

By Michael Georgy Michael Georgy 59 mins ago

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – A chartered ship evacuated nearly 1,000 foreign workers and wounded Libyans from Misrata on Monday as government artillery bombarded the besieged city that now symbolizes the struggle against Muammar Gaddafi‘s rule.

“We wanted to be able to take more people out but it was not possible,” said Jeremy Haslam, who led the International Organization for Migration (IOM) rescue mission.

“Although the exchange of fire subsided while we were boarding … we had a very limited time to get the migrants and Libyans on board the ship and then leave.”

A rebel spokesman said four civilians were killed and five wounded by government shellfire which pounded Misrata for a fifth day on Monday. He raised Sunday’s death toll to 25, mostly civilians, because several of the wounded had died, and said about 100 had been wounded.

Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata is the rebels’ main stronghold in the west and has been under siege by pro-Gaddafi forces for the past seven weeks. Evacuees say conditions there are becoming increasingly desperate and hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed.

“The Gaddafi forces are shelling Misrata now. They are firing rockets and artillery rounds on the eastern side — the Nakl el Theqeel (road) and the residential areas around it,” Abdubasset Abu Mzeireq said on Monday morning.

The Ionian Spirit steamed out of Misrata carrying 971 people, most of them weak and dehydrated migrants mainly from Ghana, the Philippines and Ukraine, heading for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

It was second vessel chartered by the IOM, which took out nearly 1,200 migrants from Misrata last Friday.

Among the rescued group were 100 Libyans, including a child shot in the face, the IOM said in a statement.

“We have a very, very small window to get everyone out. We do not have the luxury of having days, but hours,” said IOM Middle East representative Pasquale Lupoli.

“Every hour counts and the migrants still in Misrata cannot survive much longer like this.”

Pro-Gaddafi forces have also kept up an offensive on the rebels’ eastern frontline outpost of Ajdabiyah, which rebels want to use as a staging post to retake the oil port of Brega, 50 miles to the west.

One witness said he saw around a dozen rockets land near the western entrance to Ajdabiyah on Sunday and many fighters fled as explosions boomed across the town.

Sunday marked a month since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing force to protect civilians in Libya, leading to an international air campaign.

Despite NATO air strikes against Gaddafi’s armor, rebels have been unable to hold gains in weeks of back-and-forth fighting over the coastal towns in eastern Libya.

With NATO troops bogged down in Afghanistan, Western countries have ruled out sending ground troops, a position reinforced by the British prime minister on Sunday.

“What we’ve said is there is no question of invasion or an occupation — this is not about Britain putting boots on the ground,” David Cameron told Sky News in an interview.

Scores of volunteer fighters and civilian cars carrying men, women and children on Sunday streamed east from Ajdabiyah up the coast road toward Benghazi, where the popular revolt against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule began in earnest on February 17.

The United States, France and Britain said last week they would not stop bombing Gaddafi’s forces until he left power, although when or if that would happen was unclear.

The rebels pushed hundreds of kilometers toward the capital Tripoli in late March after foreign warplanes began bombing Gaddafi’s positions to protect civilians, but proved unable to hold territory and were pushed back as far as Ajdabiyah.

JUST LIKE IRAQ?

In Tripoli, Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, said in an interview that the world had gone to war with Libya based on nothing more than rumor and propaganda.

“The biggest issue is the terrorists and the armed militia,” Saif Gaddafi told the Washington Post. “Once we get rid of them, everything will be solved.”

Government forces were hunting down “terrorists” in Misrata just as American forces did in Fallujah in Iraq.

“It’s exactly the same thing. I am not going to accept it, that the Libyan army killed civilians. This didn’t happen. It will never happen,” he said.

Once they were beaten, it would be time to talk of national reconciliation and democracy under a new constitution that would reduce his father’s role to a symbolic one, the Post quoted Saif Gaddafi as saying.

The London-educated son was once seen as a potential reformer but his comments indicated that Gaddafi was in no mood to compromise despite the international pressure. The rebels have rejected any solution that does not remove Gaddafi and his family from power.

The U.N. humanitarian affairs chief, Valerie Amos, speaking in Benghazi after a visit to Tripoli, said the government had given her no guarantees regarding her call for an overall cessation of hostilities to help the relief effort.

She also said she was extremely worried about the situation in Misrata. “No one has any sense of the depth and scale of what is happening there,” she said.”

(Additional reporting by Ashraf Fahim in Benghazi, Mussab Al-Khairalla in Tripoli, Mariam Karoumy in Beirut, Sami Aboudi in Cairo and Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers; Writing by Angus MacSwan, editing by Tim Pearce)

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OPEC worried by high oil price, patchy global recovery

Posted by Admin on April 18, 2011

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/OPEC-worried-high-oil-price-reuters-5695835.html

On Monday 18 April 2011, 2:37 PM

 

OPEC building is pictured in the centre Vienna September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer/Files

By Eman Goma

KUWAIT (Reuters) – High oil prices represent a potentially major burden for importers with global economic recovery still fragile, leading OPEC ministers said on Monday.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, a day after confirming the kingdom slashed oil production by more than 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) in March due to weak demand, warned of continued weakness in the global economy.

“The recovery remains patchy, in many countries unemployment remains at unacceptable levels,” Naimi told a meeting of Middle Eastern and Asian energy officials, according to the text of his speech obtained by Reuters.

Consuming nations have warned that rising oil prices, which earlier this month touched $127 a barrel, their highest level since July 2008, pose a threat to economic growth.

OPEC ministers for the most part have acknowledged the risk high oil prices pose but say there is little the group can do about it as demand for crude is being met with sufficient supplies.

“At these high price levels, spending on oil imports could represent a significant economic burden for many import dependent countries,” Kuwait ‘s Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah said in a speech at the meeting.

OPEC Secretary General Abdullah Al-Badri called on consuming nations to rein in speculators, saying they had added a $15 to $20 risk premium to the price of crude.

SAUDI SPECIAL BLEND REJECTED

Oil has been pushed higher since the start of the year by the wave of discontent that has swept through the Arab world, toppling the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and touching off a civil war in Libya that has brought oil exports to a halt.

Saudi Arabia , Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates boosted output when Libyan supplies were lost but they have struggled to find buyers for the extra crude they are pumping.

Saudi Arabia tried to replicate Libya’s very low sulphur, high quality sweet oil with a special blend of crude, but refiners have only bought 2 million barrels of the blend.

“The market doesn’t want to change the Libyan crude, they still wait for the Libyan crude … I am surprised that nobody is buying the new ( Saudi ) crude,” Al-Badri, a former head of Libya’s OPEC delegation, told reporters.

The bulk of the crude oil produced by OPEC is sour, or high sulphur, while sweet crudes, like Libyan barrels, are highly prized for making transport fuels that have tight sulphur restrictions.

Iran ‘s OPEC Governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi told Reuters the market was well supplied with sour crude.

“There is a shortage of sweet crude, the Libyan kind, and as we enter the driving season there is higher demand for sweet crude,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Amena Bakr and Reem Shamseddine; writing by Robert Campbell; editing by James Jukwey)

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France, Britain say NATO must step up Libya bombing

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110412/wl_nm/us_libya;_ylt=AqmJBrd0s6wr2JXn_UtpgotvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJkbmdjcTRvBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwNDEyL3VzX2xpYnlhBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl9hcnRpY2xlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDZnJhbmNlYnJpdGFp

A rebel fighter aims a rocket at the frontline ...
A rebel fighter aims a rocket at the frontline in Ajdabiyah, April 11, 2011
By Maria Golovnina Maria Golovnina 8 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – France and Britain, who first launched air attacks on Libya in coalition with the United States, on Tuesday criticized NATO‘S bombing campaign, saying it must do more to stop Muammar Gaddafi bombarding civilians.

NATO took over air operations from the three nations on March 31 but heavy government bombardment of the besieged western city of Misrata has continued unabated with hundreds of civilians reported killed.

The criticism by London and Paris followed new shelling of Misrata on Monday and the collapse of an African Union peace initiative.

Echoing rebel complaints, Juppe told France Info radio, “It’s not enough.”

He said NATO must stop Gaddafi shelling civilians and take out heavy weapons bombarding Misrata. In a barbed reference to the alliance command of the operation, Juppe added: “NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said NATO must intensify attacks, calling on other alliance countries to match London’s supply of extra ground attack aircraft in Libya.

NATO, is operating under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians, stepped up air strikes around Misrata and the eastern battlefront city of Ajdabiyah at the weekend. It rejected the criticism.

“NATO is conducting its military operations in Libya with vigor within the current mandate. The pace of the operations is determined by the need to protect the population,” it said.

Libyan state television said on Tuesday a NATO strike on the town of Kikla, south of Tripoli, had killed civilians and members of the police force. It did not give details.

PEACE TALKS FAIL

The spat within the alliance came after heavy shelling and street fighting in the coastal city of Misrata on Monday where Human Rights Watch says at least 250 people, mostly civilians, have died.

Rebels on Monday rejected an African Union peace plan, saying there could be no deal unless Gaddafi was toppled. His son Saif al Islam said such an idea was ridiculous.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Tuesday thanked Western countries for the air strikes but said they could not relieve besieged cities and appealed for arms and supplies.

“NATO’s air fleet cannot deliver the occupied cities where Gaddafi’s forces, using the civilian populations as a human shield, have now taken cover,” he said in a statement, adding that the insurgents needed time to build an army capable of toppling the Libyan leader.

Abdel Jalil pointedly named French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who the rebels hail as a hero, as the leader of the coalition supporting his forces.

Sarkozy led calls for military intervention in Libya and his warplanes were the first to attack Gaddafi’s forces.

NATO is unpopular among many insurgents, both because they believe it initially reacted slowly to government attacks and because it has killed almost 20 rebels in two mistaken bombings.

Although they have recently praised the alliance after its attacks helped break a major government assault on Ajdabiyah, many of the rebels in the field still hailed Sarkozy.

Gaddafi’s forces on Tuesday bombarded the western entrance to Ajdabiyah, launch point for insurgent attacks toward the oil port of Brega on the eastern front. There were eight blasts, apparently from artillery.

Rebels said earlier they were about 40 km (25 miles) west of Ajdabiyah, a strategic crossroads that has been the focus of fierce battles in the last two months.

NATO attacks outside Ajdabiyah on Sunday helped break the biggest assault by Gaddafi’s forces on the eastern front for at least a week. The town is the gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi 150 km (90 miles) north up the Mediterranean coast.

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Gaddafi forces of executing prisoners, killing protesters and attacking refugees.

SCORN

Rebels in Misrata, their last major bastion in western Libya and under siege for six weeks, scorned reports that Gaddafi had accepted a ceasefire, saying they were fighting house-to-house battles with his forces.

Rebels told Reuters that Gaddafi’s forces had intensified the assault, for the first time firing truck-mounted, Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate.

The difficulty for Western nations in maintaining momentum in Libya was revealed in a Reuters/Ipsos MORI on Tuesday that found ambiguous and uncertain support for the operation among Britons, Americans and Italians.

While they supported ousting Gaddafi, they were worried about the costs of a military campaign and uncertain about the objectives. Support was more solid in France.

Gaddafi’s former foreign minister Moussa Koussa, speaking in Britain where he fled last month, said on Tuesday the war risked making Libya a failed state like Somalia.

Koussa, who will attend an international meeting on Libya’s future in Doha on Wednesday, called for national unity in an interview with the BBC.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Ajdabiyah, Souhail Karam and Richard Lough in Rabat, Christian Lowe in Algiers, John Irish in Paris, Adrian Croft in Luxembourg; Writing by Barry Moody; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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NATO general: ‘We’re doing a great job’ in Libya

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110412/ap_on_re_eu/libya_diplomacy;_ylt=AqKenJswHYuJzvqlFth6Hh9vaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJrNm03bm42BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwNDEyL2xpYnlhX2RpcGxvbWFjeQRwb3MDMQRzZWMDeW5fYXJ0aWNsZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA25hdG9nZW5lcmFsdw–

A wounded rebel fighter is carried away toa hospital on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya.

1 hr 13 mins ago

BRUSSELS — A NATO general is rejecting French criticism of the operation in Libya, saying the alliance is performing well and protecting civilians.

France’s foreign minister said earlier Tuesday that NATO needed to do more to take out the heavy weaponry that has repeatedly checked the advances of opposition forces. Alain Juppe told France-Info radio, “NATO has to play its role in full.”

Dutch Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm says the alliance was successful in enforcing an arms embargo, patrolling a no fly zone and protecting civilians.

Van Uhm says, “I think with the assets we have, we’re doing a great job.”

NATO took over command of the operation over Libya from the U.S. on March 31.

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

LONDON (AP) — Libya’s former Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is traveling to Doha to share his insight on the workings of Moammar Gadhafi‘s inner circle, British government officials said Tuesday, as NATO searches for solutions following weeks of international airstrikes.

Koussa has been asked to attend the conference on Libya being held in Qatar as a valuable Gadhafi insider, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. News of his trip came as France’s foreign minister said NATO needed to do more to take out the heavy weaponry that has repeatedly checked the advances of opposition forces.

“NATO has to play its role in full,” Alain Juppe told France-Info radio.

Alliance officials in Brussels did not immediately respond to the criticism, but France’s frustration with the developing stalemate on the ground, where Libyan rebels have struggled to capitalize on Western air attacks, has been echoed across Western capitals.

British government officials say they hope that Koussa’s trip to Doha, where Arab and Western leaders are meeting to chart the way forward on Libya, will help give participants a better idea of how to force Gadhafi out of office.

“He’s a Gadhafi insider. He may be able to offer solutions where others are falling short,” one of the officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that Koussa was “traveling today to Doha to meet with the Qatari government,” as well as Libyan rebel officials, adding that Koussa was “a free individual, who can travel to and from the U.K. as he wishes.”

Koussa had been held at a safehouse since he fled to Britain late last month, but agents from Britain’s external intelligence agency MI6 stopped questioning Koussa last week, according to the official. Koussa had been staying in a safehouse until late Monday night, according to Noman Benotman, an ex-member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and relative of Koussa who has been in regular contact with the former foreign minister since he fled to Britain.

Although Koussa was provided with legal advice, Benotman said he believed he had “cleared most of the legal hurdles in the U.K.” surrounding his alleged involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and arming the Irish Republican Army.

Meanwhile France and Britain sent out conflicting signals about the need to provide succor to the rebel-held city of Misrata, which has been subjected to weeks of punishing bombardment by Gadhafi forces. Juppe said in his interview that the EU had to do more to get humanitarian aid to Misrata, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that aid was still getting through.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Hague said the aid already delivered there did not need any military backing so far.

“Humanitarian assistance is getting through to Libya, including to Misrata. That, so far, has not needed military assistance to deliver it,” Hague said.

The European Union said over the weekend it is ready to launch a humanitarian mission in Misrata soon, with possible military support, if it gets the necessary backing from the U.N.

Meanwhile, IHH, an Islamic aid group in Turkey, said it will send an aid ship to Misrata on Wednesday, carrying food, powdered milk, infant formula, medicines and a mobile health clinic.

The IHH has a self-declared mission to assist Muslims in the region. It deployed dozens of activists, including doctors, two days after the Libyan uprising began in February and established a tent city and a soup kitchen at the border crossing with Tunisia.

Last year, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists, including one American dual national, in a raid on Mavi Marmara, an IHH-sponsored ship that was trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip carrying aid supplies.

The soldiers said they opened fire after coming under attack by a mob of activists wielding clubs, axes and metal rods. The activists said they were defending themselves.

Angela Charlton in Paris, Raf Casert in Luxembourg and Selcan Hacaoglu in Turkey contributed to this report.

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