Nato chief sees end to Gaddafi’s ‘reign of terror’

2011-05-30 09:10

Bulgaria – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s “reign of terror” is coming to an end, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today ahead of a peace mission by South African President Jacob Zuma.

Nato warplanes have been raising the pace of their air strikes on Tripoli, with Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound in the centre of the city being hit repeatedly.

Britain said yesterday it was to add “bunker-busting” bombs to the arsenal its warplanes are using over Libya, a weapon it said would send a message to Gaddafi that it was time to quit.

“Our operation in Libya is achieving its objectives ... We have seriously degraded Gaddafi’s ability to kill his own people,” Rasmussen told a Nato forum in Varna, Bulgaria.

“Gaddafi’s reign of terror is coming to an end. He is increasingly isolated at home and abroad. Even those closest to him are departing, defecting or deserting.”

Britain and other Nato powers are ratcheting up their military intervention in Libya to try to break a deadlock that has seen Gaddafi hold on to power despite a rebel uprising against his four-decade rule and weeks of air strikes.

Gaddafi denies attacking civilians, saying his forces were obliged to act to contain armed criminal gangs and al-Qaeda militants.

He says the Nato intervention is an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya’s plentiful oil reserves.

South African leader Jacob Zuma was expected to arrive in Tripoli today, his second visit since the conflict began, to try to broker a ceasefire on behalf of the African Union.

Gaddafi’s foreign minister held talks in Tunisia on Saturday with Lord David Trefgarne, a former British government minister, according to a former British ambassador to Libya who took part in the discussions.

The ex-ambassador refused to disclose what they talked about and Britain’s government said neither it nor any intermediaries were talking to officials loyal to Gaddafi.

Britain said the Enhanced Paveway III bombs, each weighing nearly a ton and capable of penetrating the roof or wall of a reinforced building, had arrived at the Italian air base from where British warplanes fly missions over Libya.

“We are not trying to physically target individuals in Gaddafi’s inner circle on whom he relies, but we are certainly sending them increasingly loud messages,” British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said yesterday.

“Gaddafi may not be capable of listening but those around him would be wise to do so.”

Further deepening their involvement, Britain and France have said they will deploy attack helicopters over Libya to better pick out pro-Gaddafi forces. Helicopters are more vulnerable to attack from the ground than high-flying warplanes.

Rockets fired

Rebels control the east of Libya around the city of Benghazi, Libya’s third-biggest city Misrata, and a mountain range stretching from the town of Zintan, 150km south of Tripoli, towards the border with Tunisia.

Helped by Nato air support, the rebels have been able to push back attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces, but in many places they are still under bombardment and cut off from supplies.

A Reuters reporter in Zintan said he heard about a dozen rockets, fired by government forces, strike the outskirts of the town yesterday. There were no reports of casualties.

In Misrata, a rebel spokesman said an attack by forces loyal to Gaddafi on the western suburb of Dafniyah had been repelled.

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