Gaddafi unharmed after NATO air strikes

Gaddafi unharmed after NATO air strikes

A defiant Gaddafi was shown by the state television meeting people in a tent as his son Saif ul-Islam said the Libyan government would not be cowed down.

"The bombing which targeted Muammar Gaddafi's office today... will only scare children. It's impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag," Saif was quoted as saying by the state news agency, Jana.

"The leader is in a safe place and is working from Tripoli," a Libyan government spokesman claimed as at least three people were killed and 45 wounded when three bombs landed on his compound. The exact whereabout of Gaddafi during the attack was not known.

A meeting room facing Gaddafi's office apparently scored a direct hit in the air attack and was left badly damaged in what NATO command described as "precision attack" on his communication centre. But more than a month of air and missile strikes appeared not to have tilted the balance decisively in a conflict increasingly being labelled as a stalemate.
Residents in Misruta after being holed up inside their homes for months emerged outside after daybreak to scenes of devastation.

Ahead of the bombardments, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim had announced the army had halted operations against the rebels, but not withdrawn from Misurata, 215 km east of Tripoli.

Nearly 60 people have been killed in the city in the last three days. Meanwhile, rebels in the city said they have pushed back Gaddafi's forces and inflicted significant losses on government forces in Misurata.

"Gaddafi troops are everywhere in the streets," a rebel fighter said.

Gaddafi's forces also pounded Berber towns in Libya's western mountains with artillery, rebels and refugees said.

"Our town is under constant bombardment by Gaddafi's troops. They are using all means. Everyone is fleeing," al Jazeera quoted Imad, a refugee, as saying. As Gaddafi forces continued their offensive, Italy said it was ready to allow its air force to take part in "targeted action" against selected military objectives in Libya.

In a telephone conversation, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told US President Barack Obama "that Italy has decided to respond positively" to an appeal by the head of the NATO military alliance.

"Italy has decided to augment the operational flexibility of its planes through targeted actions against specific military objectives on Libyan territory in the context of contributing to protecting the Libyan civilian population," Berlusconi said.

The two leaders agreed that additional pressure was necessary to strengthen the civilian protection mission, the White House said, adding Obama emphasised that the best way to ensure safety of Libyan people was for Gaddafi to leave power.

Russia, meanwhile, said it will not back a new UN Security Council resolution on Libya "if it leads to a further escalation of civil war through one method or another, including foreign intervention".

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia, however, could back new UN action if it "calls for an immediate end to all violence, bloodshed, the use of force, military action, and calls on all sides to immediately sit down at the negotiating table."

Russia abstained from the March vote on the Security Council no-fly zone resolution on Libya. British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the UK and allies should get ready for a "long haul" in Libya.