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Tunisia reacts to Libya border shelling
Tunisian government threatens to report Libya to UN Security Council if shelling on the border does not stop.
Last Modified: 18 May 2011 07:59
About 20 shells fell in the border area on Tuesday in fresh clashes between rebels and government troops [Reuters]

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have shelled rebel strongholds along the Libya-Tunisia border, prompting the Tunisian government to threaten diplomatic action.

About 20 shells fell in the border area on Tuesday in fresh clashes between rebels and government troops, a Red Cross official said.

Rocket attacks by government troops forced the rebels to pull back briefly from the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing, but they ended the day in control of the area despite a sustained bombardment that killed three rebels and wounded several.

In response to some shells landing in Tunisian territory, the government has threatened to report Libya to the UN Security Council if it fired into border areas again.

State media reported that the government would threaten Libya with diplomatic action over the "continuing
firing of rockets by Libyan forces towards Tunisian territory," violating its territorial sovereignty and putting its citizens at risk.

"The Tunisian government views those acts as belligerent behaviour from the Libyan side who had pledged more than once to prevent its forces from firing in the direction of Tunisia and has failed to respect its undertakings," state media quoted a foreign ministry source as saying.

The border crossing are a lifeline for rebels on the western front of Libya's two-month-old conflict, allowing food, medicine and fuel to reach rebel-held towns on the mountain plateau, and ambulances to take casualties to hospital in Tunisia.

The NATO alliance meanwhile continues its military campaign in the capital Tripoli, as air strikes reportedly hit two buildings on Tuesday, including one which a Libyan spokesman said contained files detailing corruption cases against government officials who had defected to the rebels.

Misurata clashes

Officials summoned reporters after the attack in the early hours to visit the two damaged buildings which they said housed internal security forces and Libya's anti-corruption agency. One building was in flames.

Also on Tuesday, at least seven people were killed in the Misurata during clashes between rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi, according to a doctor at a hospital in the rebel-held Libyan city said.

The doctor said most of the casualties were rebel fighters killed in battles on the western and eastern edges of the city.

In a bid to end the long running conflict, Russia hosted a representative of Gaddafi's government in its capital, Moscow, and called on the Libyan government to stop using force against civilians, comply fully with UN Security Council resolutions and withdraw armed groups from cities.

"The answer we heard cannot be called negative," said Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.

He also said that Libya was ready to look at peace proposals based on those suggested by the African Union and to comply with Security Council resolutions.

Oil minister 'defects'

Meanwhile, defections from Gaddafi's regime continue, with the country's oil minister being the latest high profile official to flee the country, reportedly to Tunisia.

Shokri Ghanem, who also chaired the National Oil Corporation, is said to be in the capital, Tunis.

Rebels fighting to end the 41-year-old rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's embattled leader, also said they had information that Ghanem, 68, had defected.

However, rebels and Arab media reported on a previous occasion that Ghanem had stepped down, but he later re-appeared and said he was in his office and working as usual.

Ghanem has been in charge of the oil ministry since 2006 and was previously prime minister. His oil ministry is the biggest income generator for the country.

Libya has Africa's largest oil reserves, at 41.5 billion barrels.

Rebels have taken Benghazi and the oil-producing east of the North African country, their uprising helped by a NATO bombing campaign sanctioned by the UN to protect civilians.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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