Nato aims to end Gadhafi regime

Hillary Clinton says the Libyan leader is testing our determination

The effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya topped the agenda at a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from Nato’s 28 member countries. Three weeks of airstrikes haven’t routed Gadhafi’s forces, causing tensions in the alliance.

Although Nato countries agree that Gadhafi must be ousted, his departure is not one of its military goals and the alliance has been at odds on how to proceed.  One proposal from Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, calls for the western powers to provide defensive weapons to rebels.

France has said Nato is not doing enough, and was pushing other countries at the meeting to work “on more robust, more efficient, more rapid actions,” according to French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero in Paris.

The rebels along with France and Britain have been urging the US military to reassert a stronger role in the Nato-led air campaign.  The Obama administration, however, has been insisting the US will stick to its plan to remain in a supporting role, and the Pentagon noted that Americans have flown 35 per cent of all Libyan air missions over the last 10 days.

Clinton appealed to the other Nato foreign ministers to show unity. “As our mission continues, maintaining our resolve and unity only grows more important,” Clinton said on Thursday.  “Gadhafi is testing our determination. Nato members are sharing the same goal, which is to see the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya,” Clinton said.

“We must also intensify our political, diplomatic and economic mission to pressure and isolate Gadhafi and bring about his departure,” she said. Clinton drew a line between Nato’s goals of enforcing an arms embargo, protecting civilians, and forcing the withdrawal of Gadhafi forces from rebel cities they have entered, with the international community’s demand that Gadhafi leave power.

The world must “deepen our engagement with and increase our support for” the Libyan opposition, she added. Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance and its partners are fully engaged in operations to safeguard the people of Libya, taking every measure possible to prevent Gadhafi’s brutal and systematic attacks.

“The alliance is keeping up  a high operational tempo,” he added. France’s foreign minister, Alain Juppe, struck a diplomatic tone as he met with his counterpart from Germany, which isn’t taking part in the military operation and abstained in the UN  vote authorising it.

Govt forces shell rebel stronghold

Forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi on Thursday pounded the besieged western town of Misrata. 

Libyan rebels said heavy fighting was continuing in the town, 214 km east of Tripoli, where Gadhafi’s forces have been trying to dislodge them with heavy bombardments and street attacks for weeks.

Rebels were quoted as saying in the media that at least 13 people were killed and some 50 hurt in attacks by pro-Gadhafi troops on Libya’s third largest city and the lone rebel bastion in western Libya. Nato said it had attacked munitions bunkers 13km from the Libyan capital.

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