TRIPOLI – The African Union was to attempt on Sunday to map a road to peace in Libya, despite a previous failed effort to end hostilities between Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and rebels seeking to oust the Libyan leader, CNN reports.
The meeting follows claims a day earlier by the Libyan government that NATO warplanes bombed a bakery and a restaurant in a key oil refinery town east of Tripoli, a charge the alliance has countered.
The African Union’s Special Committee on Libya, established in March, was to convene in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss avenues to end the months-long fighting that has gripped the nation and left tens of thousands dead.
Ahead of the meeting, human rights activists urged the African Union to prioritize the issue of the plight of civilians caught in armed conflicts, including Libya.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have blamed the Gadhafi regime for violations of human rights, including indiscriminate fire on civilians, the use of internationally banned cluster bombs and the torture and executions of captured fighters.
NATO began bombing military targets in March after the U.N. Security Council issued a resolution authorizing force by whatever means necessary, with the exception of a ground invasion, to protect civilians.
Libyan football stars defect to the mountains, join Anti-Gaddafi rebels
Four members of Libya’s national football team and 13 other leading figures in the sport have defected to the rebels, The Telegraph informs.
“I am telling Colonel Gaddafi to leave us alone and allow us to create a free Libya,” said Juma Gtat, 33, who has played as goalkeeper in the national team. “In fact I wish he would leave this life altogether.”
He was speaking in Jadu in Libya’s western mountains, 50 miles south of Tripoli, where rebels have seized a swathe of territory that stretches to the Tunisian border after driving Gaddafi’s forces back towards the capital.
Others were afraid to be named, in case of reprisals against their families.
House of representatives votes against US Libya role
The US House has refused to give President Barack Obama authority to continue US participation in the NATO-led operation in Libya, but rejected a bid to cut off money for the conflict, BBC informs. The US role in the NATO mission has drawn criticism from many in Congress in recent weeks. Opponents say the three-month-old operation requires Congress’s approval.
But the Republican-led vote against approving the conflict is largely a symbolic political move, analysts say. “The president has operated in what we now know is called the zone of twilight as to whether or not he even needs our approval,” Republican Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said. “So what are we left with?”
Mr Obama says he does not need additional congressional approval, as US forces are simply supporting NATO.