Nato to bomb Libya until the end
OUSTED Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi broke his silence to call on Libyans to wage a campaign of disobedience against the country’s new leaders, as Nato vowed to continue its campaign until all pockets of resistance were gone.
Gaddafi, speaking publicly yesterday for the first time in two weeks, called on his countrymen to “go out in new million-man marches in all cities and villages and oases”.
He said the National Transitional Council, which has assumed leadership of the country since then-rebel forces swept into Tripoli in late August, had no legitimacy because it was not nominated or appointed by the Libyan people.
“Be courageous, rise up, go out in the streets,” he said. “Raise the green flag in the skies. The conditions in Libya are unbearable.”
Meanwhile Nato ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday said the bombing campaign in Libya will continue until Gaddafi’s forces are no longer a threat to civilians and the country’s new rulers can provide adequate security.
At the end of a two-day conference in Brussels, US defence secretary Leon Panetta said there was a “pretty clear consensus” among defence ministers that they should look closely at the battle for Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte to determine the capability of the ruling council before bringing Nato’s mission to an end.
“There are some important guidelines to look at. One, what happens in Sirte. Number two, does the regime maintain the capability to attack civilians? Number three, does Gaddafi maintain any kind of command capability? Number four, what is the state of the opposition forces to be able to provide security?” he said.
Nato’s top operations commander, Admiral James Stavridis, told the briefing that the final decision would be a political one based on the recommendation of Nato commanders.
Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it was clear the end of the mission, which has involved more than 9,000 air strike sorties, was in sight.
“I expect the time to end our mission will come soon,” he said. “Gaddafi’s forces are fighting for a lost cause. The threat to civilians is fading away.”
Gaddafi, who is in hiding, made his appeal in an poor quality audio recording and it was not possible to verify his identity, but it was broadcast on Syrian-based Al-Rai TV, which has become the mouthpiece of his resistance.
He has made several speeches on Al-Rai as he has tried to rally supporters, who are still waging fierce resistance in his besieged hometown of Sirte, the town of Bani Walid south-east of Tripoli and pockets in the south.
The International Red Cross, meanwhile, delivered medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to civilians in Sirte amid rapidly deteriorating conditions.
Dibeh Fakhr, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said two trucks entered Sirte and distributed the goods, which included baby milk, hygiene kits, nappies and drinking water.
It was the ICRC’s third successful foray into the Mediterranean coastal city since Saturday, but the first time aid workers reached the main hospital.
Sirte, 250 miles south-east of Tripoli, is the most important of the pro-Gaddafi cities that are holding out against Libya’s new rulers. The two sides have traded artillery, tank and mortar fire.
Hundreds of families have been streaming out of the city to escape the violence. Thousands have set up camp outside Sirte, raising concerns about a possible humanitarian crisis. Revolutionary forces say they have delayed a full assault to give willing civilians time to flee.
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