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Libya: 'We are not going after Gaddafi' say allies

THE coalition enforcing the United Nations' no-fly zone over Libya is not targeting Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, military leaders said last night, as reports emerged of explosions near his compound in Tripoli.

Vice-Admiral Bill Gortney, director of the US military's joint staff, said the Libyan leader was not on its "target list".

Speaking at the Pentagon shortly after the Gaddafi regime declared a new ceasefire, Adm Gortney said: "The no-fly zone is now effectively in place."

But he added the Pentagon questioned all statements from Gaddafi's government, including its claim that it would enter into a new ceasefire. A ceasefire declared by the Gaddafi regime last week failed to hold.

There were reports last night that allied air strikes against targets in Libya had resumed. Hours after the ceasefire was declared, anti-aircraft fire strafed the sky above Libyan capital Tripoli.

A plume of smoke was seen rising from the direction of the presidential palace.

In response to the latest ceasefire announcement, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Everyone will recall that in recent days Colonel Gaddafi declared a ceasefire which was promptly violated.

"We said then we would judge him on his actions not his words - and we will do so again. His obligations are very clearly set out by the UN Security Council resolution. Our assessment is that he is in breach of these obligations, so we will continue to enforce the resolution."

A number of Tornado jets were last night seen taking off from RAF Marham in Norfolk.

It is understood Typhoons from RAF Leuchars in Fife have been moved to bases in southern Italy for further air attacks, while Tornados from Lossiemouth have been transferred to Marham for long-range attacks.

In the first phase of air strikes on Saturday night, 124 Tomahawk missiles were fired. "We judge these strikes to have been very effective in significantly degrading the regime's capabilities," Adm Gortney said.

"There has been no new air activity by the regime. We have detected no radar emissions from the sites degraded and there has been a significant decrease in the use of all Libyan air surveillance radars."

He added: "We are not ruling out further such missile strikes against valid targets if and when the need arises."

However, he made clear the Libyan dictator himself was not a target, saying: "We are not going after Gaddafi. At this particular point, I can guarantee he is not on the target list."

Adm Gortney said US, British and French aircraft had attacked Gaddafi's ground forces on the outskirts of Benghazi on Saturday night.

He said the coalition acting against Gaddafi, which originally included the US, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, had broadened to include Belgium and Qatar.

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But divisions emerged on the international scene with the general secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, seeming to speak out against the targeting of Gaddafi's tanks.

There were also protests from the Russian government, which abstained over the crucial UN resolution 1973, over attacks beyond policing the no-fly zone.

There was no immediate word on the targets in the latest round of strikes, in the assault dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn, but it is understood the first wave of attacks came from 15 French jets.

The declaration of a second ceasefire in 48 hours came as rebels in the east of Libya appeared to reverse gains made by Gaddafi's forces and began to push his forces out of Benghazi.

As well as announcing the ceasefire, a spokesman for the regime called for a "symbolic march" of all Libyan peoples from Tripoli to Benghazi to "discuss homeland affairs."

The move was in contrast to Gaddafi's defiance earlier in the day in a telephone interview when he attacked the "Christian crusaders" and said he would open arms depots and arm a million Libyans to defend their country against foreign aggression. He also appeared to be attempting to put pressure on the allies with the seizure of an Italian tug and sailors at Tripoli and a renewed threat to attack foreign shipping in the Mediterranean.

The Arab League chief's criticism came after Libyan state television claimed 48 civilians had been killed in the raids. "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," Egypt's state news agency quoted Mr Moussa as saying.

But sources at the Foreign Office, which quickly sought clarification from Mr Moussa, suggested he had been misquoted and still supported the operations.Foreign Secretary William Hague later said he believed the Arab League fully backed the action being taken by the coalition. Arriving at Downing Street, he said he had personally spoken to Mr Moussa.

However, there was criticism from other quarters led by the International Red Cross, which said it was "deeply concerned" about civilian casualties and called on all sides to work to distinguish between civilians and fighters and allow safe access for humanitarian organisations.

About 100 people gathered at a CND protest near Downing Street, while Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who has enjoyed good relations with Gaddafi in the past, condemned what he called "indiscriminate bombing" and "imperial madness".

 
 
 

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