Libya offers truce to UN as revolt enters 4th month

The head of Britain's armed forces, meanwhile, said NATO should widen its bombing campaign to ensure Gaddafi is unable to cling to power, while Pope Benedict XVI called for negotiations to end the violence.

Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi, quoted by JANA state news agency, said after meeting Khatib that Libya is keen for "an immediate ceasefire to coincide with a stop to the NATO bombardment and the acceptance of international observers."

His country, he added, was committed to the unity of its territory and people and that Libyans had the right to "decide on their internal affairs and political system through democratic dialogue away from the bombing threat."

Mahmudi accused NATO, which has been in charge of enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, of "abuses and violations" including "political assassinations, the unjust maritime siege, bombing of civilian sites and destruction of infrastructure."

Soon after Khatib arrived, several loud explosions shook the east of Tripoli and columns of smoke rose into the sky, residents reported from Tajura, an outlying suburb of the capital.

JANA reported "human losses and material damage" after NATO struck "military and civilian" sites in Zuara, west of Tripoli. A NATO spokesman confirmed the alliance targeted military equipment in the city.

"I can confirm we did attack this morning in the area of Zuara military equipments used by Kadhafi forces to target civilians," he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said this week he had urged Mahmudi to halt attacks on civilians immediately and called for "immediate verifiable ceasefire negotiations towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict and unimpeded access to humanitarian workers."

General David Richards, Britain's chief of the defence staff, meanwhile told Britain's Sunday Telegraph more military action was needed against the Libyan strongman.
"The vice is closing on Gaddafi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action," he said.

The general said he wanted NATO member states to support the targeting of Gaddafi's regime, not just targets which pose an immediate threat to civilians, such as tanks and artillery.

"The military campaign to date has been a significant success for NATO and our Arab allies. But we need to do more. If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power," Richards said.

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