France: NATO 'not doing enough' in Libya

French foreign minister says alliance should be doing more to take out heavy weaponry targeting civilians in Misurata.

    Alain Juppe says NATO should be firing on the weapons used by Gadhafi's forces in besieged Misurata [AFP]

    NATO is not doing enough to protect civilians in Libya, the French foreign minister said the day after an African Union plan to halt the country's civil war collapsed.

    Alain Juppe said on Tuesday that NATO should target heavy weapons besieging Misurata, the rebel-held city in western Libya where an increasingly bloody siege by Muammar Gaddafi's troops led rebels to dismiss the AU call for a ceasefire as meaningless.

    "NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that," Juppe told France Info radio ahead of travelling to Qatar for a Libya contact group meeting on Wednesday.

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    "It must play its role today which means preventing Gaddafi from using heavy weapons to shell (civilian) populations."

    When asked if NATO was doing enough Juppe responded: "It's not enough."

    The Red Cross said it was opening a Tripoli office and would send a team to Misurata to help civilians trapped by fighting, but one of Gaddafi's ministers warned any aid operation involving foreign troops would be seen as a declaration of war.

    Koussa to Qatar

    Meanwhile, Moussa Koussa, Libya's former foreign minister is traveling to Qatar to share his insight on the workings of Gaddafi's inner circle, a British government official said.

    Koussa has been asked to attend the conference on Libya being held in Doha as a valuable Gaddafi insider, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

    MI6 agents stopped questioning Koussa last week, according to the official.

    Koussa had been staying in a safehouse until late Monday night, according to Noman Benotman, an ex-member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and relative of Koussa who has been in regular contact with the former foreign minister since he fled to Britain.

    Although Koussa was provided with legal advice, Benotman said he believed he had "cleared most of the legal hurdles in the UK" surrounding his alleged involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and arming the IRA.

    Britain's Foreign Office confirmed the trip in a statement on Tuesday, saying that Koussa was "traveling today to Doha to meet with the Qatari government and a range of other Libyan representatives" and to discuss the rejected African Union initiative.

    Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said after talks with the AU delegation in Benghazi in the rebel-held east on Monday: "The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene, therefore it is outdated."

    Gaddafi's son Saif quickly dismissed the idea of his father stepping down.

    "We want new blood, that's what we want for Libya's future. But to talk of (Gaddafi) leaving, that's truly ridiculous," he told French news channel BFM TV.

    "If the West wants democracy, a new constitution, elections, well, we agree. We agree on this point but the West must help us to provide a propitious climate. But all these bombings, this support given to rebel groups, all that is counter-productive."

    Air strikes

    Libyan television said the "colonial and crusader aggressors" hit military and civilian sites in Al Jufrah district in central Libya on Monday.

    Rebels in the coastal city of Misurata, under siege for six weeks, scorned reports that Gaddafi had accepted a ceasefire, saying they were fighting house-to-house battles with his forces, who fired rockets into the city.

    Western leaders also rejected any deal that did not include Gaddafi's removal, and NATO refused to suspend its bombing of his forces unless there was a credible ceasefire.

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general, told a Brussels news briefing that Gaddafi's government had announced ceasefires in the past, but "they did not keep their promises".

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    "Any future proposal that does not include this, we cannot accept," he said, accusing Gaddafi of bombing, shelling and shooting civilians.

    A resident of Misurata told Reuters there was heavy fighting on the eastern approaches and in the centre.

    Rebels told Reuters that Gaddafi's forces had intensified the assault, for the first time firing truck-mounted, Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate.

    Human Rights Watch accused Gaddafi's forces of indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Misurata which violated international law. It said about 250 people had died.

    At the front outside the eastern rebel-held town of Ajdabiyah, rebels buried the charred bodies of Gaddafi troops killed in air strikes and said they were advancing westwards.

    Pro-Gaddafi forces also fired rockets towards the town of Zintan on Monday, a resident called Abdulrahman said. No one was wounded, he said.

    Pro-Gaddafi forces have remained on the outskirts of Zintan, some 160km southwest of Tripoli, from where they have launched attacks on the town.

    NATO air strikes hit weapons depots belonging to pro-Gaddafi forces near Zintan, Abdulrahman said last Friday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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