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.”
GADDAFI FORCES ACCUSED OF USING CLUSTER BOMBS
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.