Gaddafi regime mulls new deadline for rebel city


Moamer Gaddafi’s government was mulling extending on Wednesday a deadline for rebels in Libya’s third city Misrata to lay down their arms after the deputy foreign minister said scores had surrendered. A rebel spokesman said at least five people were killed the same day as pro-Gaddafi forces shelled Misrata port, where a ship docked to evacuate 1,000 migrants and casualties, the International Organisation for Migration said.
As military heads of NATO’s 28 member states gathered for a two-day meeting in Brussels, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the aim of the Western alliance’s air campaign was to weaken but not to kill Gaddafi. Deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim told reporters in Tripoli that around 400 fighters had turned in their arms in Misrata, the rebel’s last major bastion in western Libya, which has been under loyalist siege for almost two months. His comments could not be verified.
“I hope that the minister of justice will listen to our call to extend it at least for another day or two, because there are good signs among people there in Misrata,” Kaim said. He said the deadline to surrender in exchange for an amnesty expired at midnight (2200 GMT) Tuesday, but it had already been rejected by the rebels fighting to oust Gaddafi after more than 40 years in power in the oil-rich north African nation.
AFP correspondents heard no fighting during the night but medics said that at least one person was killed and some 30 wounded in clashes around Misrata on Tuesday. The death toll was sharply down on Monday when 14 people died.
The fighting centred on the city’s western and southwestern suburbs, close to the loyalist forces’ base at the airport on Tuesday, as rebel commanders reported several NATO air strikes on Gaddafi armour.
NATO said in a daily update that its warplanes targeted 16 key sites around Libya on Tuesday, including three tanks and three ammunition storage facilities in Misrata.With the airport in government hands, the rebels are entirely dependent on supply by sea. The port has been repeatedly shelled by Gaddafi forces and few vessels are docking, resulting in a worsening food shortage.
The expiry of the deadline came after a car bomb near the rebel headquarters in their eastern stronghold of Benghazi wounded two people on Tuesday and frayed nerves.
The explosion happened about 200 metres (yards) from the insurgents’ seafront headquarters.
“It was a car bomb,” rebel military spokesman Omar Ahmed Bani told AFP, while Libyan journalist Nasser Warfuli said at the scene that the vehicle was a white Chevrolet that blew up just before Muslim evening prayers.