Doha meeting reveals divisions on Libya

2011-04-13 17:19
Doha - Britain pressured other Nato members to step up ground attacks in Libya on Wednesday, but cracks appeared in the alliance as foreign ministers met trying to break the deadlock in the civil war.

Nato divisions surfaced at the international "contact group" meeting, not only over arming the rebels and increasing air strikes, but also on creating a fund from frozen Libyan assets to help the opposition trying to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined the humanitarian disaster caused by the war, telling the meeting that up to 3.6 million people, or more than half the population, could need assistance.

Paris and London are increasingly frustrated that air strikes have neither tipped the balance of the war in favour of rebels trying to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule nor even ended devastating shelling of the besieged city of Misrata.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe criticised Nato on Tuesday for not doing enough to stop the bombardment of the rebel-held port town, where hundreds of civilians are said to have died in more than six weeks of siege.

Libyan state television said on Wednesday that Nato planes had bombed Misrata's main Tripoli street, the scene of repeated battles between rebels and government troops. It said people were killed, without giving details.

The station said alliance planes also attacked Gaddafi's birthplace of Sirte, east of Misrata, and Aziziyah, south of Tripoli.

British Foreign Minister William Hague said that other coalition aircraft had to join ground attacks.

"There are many other nations around Europe and indeed Arab nations who are part of this coalition.

"There is scope for some of them to move some of their aircraft from air defence into ground-strike capability," he said.

Rebels attending the Doha meeting said they expected more support, saying Nato was using "minimum" power and needed to step up attacks on Gaddafi's heavy weapons.

Britain and France, western Europe's two main military powers, were delivering most of the air strikes on Gaddafi's armour since President Barack Obama ordered US forces to take a back seat.

Other Nato countries are either keeping their distance from the campaign or enforcing a no-fly zone but not bombing.

A spokesperson for the rebel national council at the Doha talks said the coalition was considering supplying arms which should go to soldiers who have defected from the army.

The rebels only had "primitive weapons" taken from Gaddafi's troops, he said.

Read more on:    nato  |  muammar gaddafi  |  william hague  |  alain juppe  |  libya  |  qatar  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings

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