Italy urges halt to Libyan conflict, China boosts rebels | Pakistan Today

Italy urges halt to Libyan conflict, China boosts rebels

Italy called Wednesday for a halt to Libyan hostilities to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, as the civilian death toll mounted and state media said NATO was bombing highway traffic checkpoints. On the diplomatic front, China said it recognises Libya’s opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) as an “important dialogue partner.” “We have seen the effects of the crisis and therefore also of NATO action not only in eastern and southwestern regions but also in Tripoli,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a parliamentary committee meeting in Rome.
“I believe an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities is required in order to create effective humanitarian corridors,” while negotiations should also continue on a more formal ceasefire and peace talks, he said. “I think this is the most urgent and dramatic point,” Frattini continued. “I think it is legitimate to request ever more detailed information on the results” of the NATO mission, he added, condemning “the dramatic errors that hit civilians, which is clearly not an objective of the NATO mission.”
France, which has taken the lead in military operations against Moamer Kadhafi, immediately ruled out any pause in the Libya campaign. “The coalition and the countries that met as the Abu Dhabi contact group two weeks ago were unanimous on the strategy: we must intensify the pressure on Kadhafi,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters. “Any pause in operations would risk allowing him to play for time and to reorganise. In the end, it would be the civilian population that would suffer from the smallest sign of weakness on our behalf,” he said. NATO has been forced to defend the credibility of its air war after the alliance admitted firing a rogue missile that the Libyan regime says killed nine civilians, including children, in Tripoli.
“I would suggest that our reputation and credibility is unquestionable,” said Wing Commander Mike Bracken, the mission’s military spokesman. “What is questionable is the Kadhafi regime’s use of human shields, (and) firing missiles from mosques,” Bracken told reporters from operation headquarters in Naples, Italy. The blunder — an embarrassment for a mission that prides itself on protecting Libya’s people from the regime — came on the heels of a friendly fire incident last week in which a column of rebel vehicles was hit by NATO warplanes. The outgoing head of the Arab League Amr Mussa too voiced concerns about NATO’s bombing campaign, in an interview with a British newspaper on Wednesday. The veteran Egyptian diplomat, who played a key role in securing Arab support for the UN Security Council Resolution that authorised NATO air strikes, told the Guardian the bombing mission may not be working.
“When I see children being killed, I must have misgivings. That’s why I warned about the risk of civilian casualties,” he said. Libyan state television and official news agency JANA meanwhile reported that NATO warplanes had carried out raids on the towns of Khoms and Nalut in western Libya. The television report said that NATO targeted two checkpoints in the Khoms region 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Tripoli. It added that the control points were “civilian” intended to “organise traffic movements.”
NATO denied bombing highway traffic checkpoints, saying it only hit military targets. “They are all clearly military targets,” a NATO official told AFP by telephone from the mission’s headquarters in Naples, Italy. NATO’s latest update of operations says that in the vicinity of Nalut, the alliance hit five truck-mounted guns, one armoured personnel carrier and two anti-aircraft guns. China meanwhile said it recognised Libya’s rebel opposition as an “important dialogue partner”, in a further sign of Beijing’s willingness to get more deeply engaged in the Libyan conflict.

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