NATO mulls intensified airstrikes

Updated: 2011-04-15 07:46

(China Daily)

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TRIPOLI, Libya - Libya accused Qatar of providing rebels seeking to oust Muammar Gadhafi with anti-tank missiles, as NATO on Thursday gathered to mull calls for intensified airstrikes on government forces.

NATO mulls intensified airstrikes
A man walks past graffiti on a wall reading "Yes for Free Libya" in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]

"Qatar sent French Milan missiles to the rebels in Benghazi," the eastern city that serves as their base, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said at a press conference in Tripoli.

NATO mulls intensified airstrikes

He charged that 20 Qatari experts were also in the city to train some 700 rebels and that elements of the Lebanese group Hezbollah were fighting with the rebels in eastern Libya.

Both Qatar and France are part of the international coalition carrying out a military intervention against the Libyan government.

France and Britain agreed to step up military pressure on Gadhafi's forces after world powers meeting in Doha promised Libya's rebels cash and the means to defend themselves.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on increased military pressure at a working dinner in Paris ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin beginning on Thursday, a source in the French presidency said.

"All means must be made available" in the fight against Gadhafi, the source said, amid efforts by London and Paris to step up pressure on their NATO allies to help defeat Gadhafi's rule.

The diplomatic moves came amid rising friction within the alliance over a NATO air campaign in Libya that has so far failed to change the balance of power on the ground.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Berlin for the meetings on Thursday and Friday, issued a statement denouncing what she said were continuing attacks on civilians by Gadhafi's forces.

"In recent days, we have received disturbing reports of renewed atrocities conducted by Gadhafi's forces," she said.

After launching the first salvos to protect Libya's population nearly a month ago, Britain and France are pressing their partners to contribute more combat jets to protect the population from Gadhafi's forces.

Only six out of NATO's 28 members are conducting airstrikes while French and British warplanes are carrying out half of the flights, a French official said.

The United States has moved into a back-up role in Libya, leaving nearly all the air raids in the hands of its allies.

Mahmud Jibril, who handles foreign policy for the rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC), was expected in Washington to meet senior State and Defense Department officials as well as congressional leaders.

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"These meetings will allow us to continue to have a better sense of the opposition and the TNC and its vision for Libya," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

In Doha, the international contact group on Libya decided after a day-long gathering on Wednesday to set up a "temporary financial mechanism" to aid the rebels seeking to oust Gadhafi.

It "affirmed that Gadhafi's regime has lost all legitimacy, and he should leave and allow the Libyan people to decide their future".

While there was a consensus that Gadhafi must go, differences emerged over arming the rebels.

The rebel leadership said in a Tweet: "We're discussing weapons deals with countries that officially recognized the council; we've been getting positive replies."



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