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Libyan rebels meet UN official as Gaddafi attacks anew

Tuesday March 22, 2011 11:23:26 PM, DPA

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Tripoli/Cairo: The UN envoy to Libya met Tuesday for the first time with leaders of rebel forces fighting Muammar Gaddafi's brigades, as a number of rebel-held cities in the country's west came under attack.

A UN spokesman said that its representative, Abdul Ilah Khatib, met with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the Libyan Transitional National Council, and other rebel leaders in Libya's eastern city of Tobruk.

"They described the various aspects of the situation and pointed out sufferings and hardships endured by some Libyan cities and towns," Al Khatib said.

The meeting came as Gaddafi's forces shelled the western city of Yefren, destroying several houses and a mosque.

There were also reports of shelling in Zintan, with Gaddafi's forces trying to enter the city centre using heavy artillery, a rebel spokesman in the city, located just east of Tripoli, told broadcaster Al Jazeera.

The opposition Libyan Youth Movement said one Gaddafi loyalist caught in Zintan had confessed they would be paid 600 Libyan dinar ($490) for every dead body taken back to Tripoli.

Residents of the western city of Misurata said their city was also under attack by Gaddafi's forces. They complained that communications were blocked, and that there had been no water in the city for the past week.

A doctor in Misurata, the country's third largest city, said hundreds had been injured there over the past two days and medical resources were running out.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that it had heard reports that prices of basic commodities have doubled, while 95 percent of shops in the cities of Zawiya, Misurata and Sirte remained closed.

Despite the continued unrest in several cities Tuesday, a British military official said that the assault by Gaddafi's forces had been halted, but admitted that the threat had not entirely been removed.

Spokesman Major General John Lorimer said that aircraft from the US, France, Denmark, Italy and Britain were joined for the first time by Spanish fighters during the latest operations, which took place under US command.

The British military confirmed earlier Tuesday that a US fighter jet crashed in Libya, as a fourth day of international action aimed at curbing Gaddafi's ability to attack civilians was underway.

According to Britain's defence ministry, the two US pilots were both safe.

"Thankfully both crew members are safe," Lorimer told a briefing in London. Further details of the F-15 crash would be given by the US, which has already confirmed reports of the crash.

A mechanical failure, not hostile fire, was believed to be the cause of the crash, which reportedly took place near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, in eastern Libya.

This is the first coalition aircraft to crash in Libya since a military operation to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya began Saturday.

Coalition airstrikes took out radar sites near Benghazi and hit two navy bases near the capital Tripoli in the early hours of Tuesday.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said coalition forces had struck a harbour, 30 km west of Tripoli Monday, as well as the airports in Gaddafi's home town of Sirte and the southern town of Sabha.

Ibrahim alleged that "many" civilians had been killed by the strikes.

Witnesses told the DPA that strikes over Tripoli were not affecting daily life in the capital. Stores were open all day and traffic was normal.

China, meanwhile, said it was "deeply concerned" about civilian casualties in Libya and continued to oppose the Western-led airstrikes.





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Picture of the Day

President of India Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressing at the inauguration of the National Festival of Tribal Dances, ‘PRAKRITI’, in New Delhi on March 16, 2011. Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture, Kum. Selja, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Mahadev S. Khandela are also seen.

(Photo: Mukesh Kumar)



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