UN seeks truce in Misrata

UN seeks truce in Misrata

Attacks on the besieged city claimed lives of 20 children

 Libya’s third city, where hundreds are believed to have been killed by shelling and sniper fire from Muammar Gadhafi’s forces, is the main focus of efforts to protect civilians caught up in the Libyan leader’s bid to put down an armed rebellion.

“Fifty days into the fighting in Misrata, the full picture of the toll on children is emerging —far worse than we had feared and certain to get worse unless there is a ceasefire,” said Marixie Mercado, spokeswoman for the UN children’s fund UNICEF.  “We have at least 20 verified child deaths and many more injuries due to shrapnel from mortars and tanks and bullet wounds,” she told a news briefing in Geneva.

Aid groups say food, medicines and other basic items are in short supply in the city, and tens of thousands of casualties and foreign workers are waiting at the port to be evacuated.

City’s plight

Nine weeks after the rebellion broke out—inspired by uprisings against autocratic rulers elsewhere in the Arab world—the city’s plight has highlighted the limitations of a Nato-led air campaign designed to keep Gadhafi’s forces out of the air and prevent attacks on civilians.

Many Nato members refuse to go beyond enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone to attack Gadhafi’s forces, despite the urging of the US, France and Britain, who all want to see Gadhafi removed from power.

And some of those who allowed a UN Security Council resolution on Libya to pass say that it is being misused to provide military cover for the rebels—even though fighting now appears to have stalemated on a frontline just west of Ajdabiyah in eastern Libya.

Nato said multiple airstrikes on Monday night had targeted Gadhafi’s communications infrastructure and the headquarters of his 32nd brigade, 10 km south of Tripoli.

Libyan television said Tripoli and the towns of Sirte and al-Aziziyah had been bombed.
At Ajdabiyah’s western gate, rebels peered into the desert through binoculars on Tuesday morning at what they said were Gadhafi’s forces 30 km away.

Some said Nato had advised them not to attack so they would not be hit accidentally by airstrikes.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Western air support was allowing the Libyan opposition to refuse to sit down to negotiate.

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