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May 20, 2022

Battles for Libyan cities rage on

Hundreds rally for Gaddafi in the capital. NATO summit fails to get allies’ commitment to send more strike planes.

TRIPOLI – The front line in the battle for control of Libya’s coast remained  unclear on Sunday, after the western edge of Ajdabiya came under fire from  a barrage of rockets, according to Al-Jazeera. Libyan rebels, seeking to  overthrow long time leader Muammar Gaddafi, had earlier advanced from  Ajdabiya toward the oil port town of Brega in the country’s east. But they  were outflanked by Gaddafi’s troops who avoided the main body of fighting  in order to attack from Ajdabiya’s south.

Following NATO air strikes long the coastal road on Saturday, anti-Gaddafi forces said they had reached the  edges of Brega, bringing engineers with them to repair the damaged oil  infrastructure. The battle for territory in Libya’s east left eight anti-Gaddafi  fighters dead and 16 wounded on Saturday. At least six people were killed on Sunday morning in Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, with some 47 injured  in the artillery fire. On Saturday, food industry facilities in the besieged city  were reportedly damaged.

Meanwhile, hundreds of chanting supporters  waved green flags and pledged loyalty to Gaddafi after thunderous  explosions believed to be NATO airstrikes pounded targets in the capital,  CNN said. “I have a message to NATO and to the United Kingdom and  France,” a man wrapped in a green flag said Saturday night. “We say to them,  e will kill you if you come to our land.”


Libyan officials categorically denied claims that  forces loyal to Gaddafi have used cluster bombs in the battle for Misrata.  Tripoli authorities refuted reports from New York-based watchdog Human  Rights Watch, which said its researchers had found remains of cluster  munitions in the city. “Absolutely no. We can’t do this. Morally, legally, we  can’t do this,” Gaddafi spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters.

Meanwhile  on Friday, a NATO meeting of foreign ministers on Libya has ended without a commitment from allies to send more strike planes, BBC News said. Neither  the US nor Italy have indicated they will respond to calls to join ground  attacks.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the threat to  Libyan civilians would not disappear while Gaddafi was still in power.

At the  Berlin conference, Fogh Rasmussen said there were indications that allies  would provide extra strike aircraft needed for the operation in Libya. But although US President Barack Obama said the US and NATO had averted  “wholesale slaughter” with their campaign, he added that despite a military  stalemate in Libya, there was no need for greater US participation in enforcing the UN-mandated nofly zone.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign  Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested NATO was exceeding its UN mandate, and  called for an immediate shift in its policy. “We believe it is important to  urgently transfer things into the political course and proceed with a political and diplomatic settlement,” he told a Berlin press conference.

In an open  letter published earlier on Friday, Obama, UK PM David Cameron and  French President Nicolas Sarkozy said NATO must maintain military operations to protect civilians and maintain pressure on Col Gaddafi. To  allow him to remain in power would “betray” the Libyan people, they wrote.

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