Prospects fade for military solution in Libya

Prospects fade for military solution in Libya

Gadhafi forces try to enter Misrata

 Misrata, a lone rebel outpost in the west of the country, has been under siege by Gadhafi’s forces for weeks. On Friday, insurgents said government troops were advancing into eastern districts and fighting street battles with rebels.

“They tried to advance and enter the city from the eastern side, from an area called Eqseer which is a populated area. The rebels confronted them and clashes are continuing,” insurgent spokesman Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters.

The only active front in the war, along the Mediterranean coast around the eastern cities of Brega and Ajdabiyah, has descended into stalemate for a week with both sides making advances and then retreating behind secure lines at night.

The head of US Africa Command General Carter Ham  said on Thursday the conflict was entering stalemate and it was very unlikely the rebels would be able to fight their way into Tripoli to overthrow Gadhafi.

Early hopes that Western air cover and attacks on Gadhafi forces would tip the balance in favour of the rebels have evaporated as government troops sheltered their mechanised forces near civilian areas which Nato fears attacking. Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu followed a similar line to Ham on Friday. “We have always made clear there is no purely military solution to this conflict. This is why it is so important to find a political solution and in this there is no stalemate,” she said. Rebels have rejected peace talks with Gadhafi.

Lungescu, like other Nato officials, expressed frustration with the difficulty of hitting Gadhafi’s troops while avoiding civilian casualties. “The fact that we see Gadhafi’s forces driving around in civilian vehicles means it is hard to tell who is who. “The fact is they are using human shields and parking tanks next to mosques and schools so it is very hard to pinpoint any military hardware without causing civilian casualties,” she said.