The UN special envoy was yesterday headed for Libya to urge a ceasefire between Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s troops and rebels seeking to topple him, as an anti-regime revolt entered a fourth month.
The head of Britain’s armed forces, meanwhile, said NATO should widen its bombing campaign to ensure Qaddafi doesn’t manage to cling to power, while Pope Benedict XVI called for negotiations to end the violence.
Abdul Ilah al-Khatib said in Athens he would travel to Tripoli yesterday after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the week had said the special envoy would hold talks in Tripoli with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.
Ban said he had urged Mahmudi on Tuesday to halt attacks on civilians immediately and called for “immediate verifiable ceasefire negotiations towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict and unimpeded access to humanitarian workers.”
Britain’s chief of the defence staff General David Richards told the Sunday Telegraph more military action was needed against Qaddafi.
The general said he wanted NATO member states to support the targeting of Qaddafi’s regime, not just targets that pose an immediate threat to civilians, such as tanks and artillery.
“At present, NATO is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya, but if we want to increase the pressure on Qaddafi’s regime, then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit,” he said.
The alliance has been accused by the Libyan regime of failing to comply with its mandate by going after civilian targets and putting -Qaddafi himself in their crosshairs.
State news agency JANA -reported new NATO air strikes late on Saturday in the Libyan regions of Bir Al-Ghanam, Njila and the city of Al-Azizya, southwest of Tripoli.
Citing a military source, the agency reported that “civilian and military” sites had been targeted and that the strikes had caused “human and material damage.” It provided no further details.
Meanwhile, the pope said yesterday he was following the conflict in Libya “with great apprehension” and called for negotiations to end the violence.
“I renew a pressing appeal that the voice of negotiations and dialogue be stronger than that of violence, with the help of international organizations that are looking for a solution to the crisis,” the pope said after his weekly Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square.
On the battlefield, rebels made new progress in their advance from the western port city of Misrata, which they freed in fierce fighting earlier in the week from a two-month siege by Qaddafi’s forces.
In the rebels’ eastern bastion of Benghazi, Jalal al-Gallal, a spokesman for their National Transitional Council, touted the achievements of the past three months.
“Qaddafi’s isolation is irreversible and most importantly, we achieved freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of movement. Qaddafi’s biggest mistake was failing to understand how important these were for us,” he said.
However, he also acknowledged that people in the east were losing patience that Qaddafi was still in power and that the military campaign against him had hit a stalemate.
“It is true, people are impatient and euphoria could drop a little bit,” Gallal said. “After being optimistic, we have to start to be pragmatic. It is true, there could be some discontent.”