Gaddafi steps up attacks, rebels set demands for his exit

Posted By: Pti
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Muammar Gaddafi
Cairo, Mar 8: In a renewed offensive, Libyan jets today (Mar 8) pounded rebel-held eastern oil port city of Ras Lanuf to stop opponents from advancing towards Tripoli, Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold, amid mounting calls by western nations for reinforcing a ''no-fly'' zone over the country.

War planes fired missiles near rebel positions on the Mediterranean coast in Ras Lanuf, but there were no immediate reports of any casualties.

The Libyan ruler's supporters pushed eastward in an effort to roll back the gains of the rebels and recapture fallen towns, with Al-Jazeera channel reporting that they have taken the central town of Bin Jawad.

Fierce fighting in the eastern city of Misurata, located between the capital Tripoli and Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, continued as the uprising to end the 41-year rule of Gaddafi entered the 22nd day.

The rebels said they will not pursue 68-year-old Gaddafi over crimes against humanity if he steps down from his post in the next 72 hours.

"If he leaves Libya immediately, during 72 hours, and stops the bombardment, we as Libyans will step back from pursuing him for crimes," Abdel Jalil Mustapha, head of the opposition National Council was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

But the Libyan state television denied reports that Gaddafi had tried to strike a deal with the rebels.

Amid growing pressure on the international community to halt the civil war, UK and France led a campaign at the United Nations for a ''no-fly'' zone over Libya in a bid to halt the Gaddafi regime from unleashing air strikes on rebel-held areas.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama tried to raise pressure on Gaddafi further by talking about "a range" of possible options, "including potential military options" against the embattled Libyan leader.

Obama said the US would stand with the Libyan people as they face "unacceptable" violence.

"I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gaddafi: It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward, and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there," Obama said.

"In the meantime, we've got NATO, as we speak, consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside of Libya," he added.

William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, said Britain is "working closely with partners on a contingency basis on elements of a resolution on a no-fly zone".

"There should be a demonstrable need that the whole world can see, there must be a clear legal basis for such a no-fly zone and there must be clear support from the well as from the people of Libya themselves," he said.

The six US-allied Gulf Arab nations have backed a UN-enforced no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians.

Abdul Rahman Hamad al-Attiyah, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said yesterday that "the massacres committed by the regime" in Libya against its own citizens amount to "crimes against humanity".

Amid an exodus of foreign workers, the UN and the EU have announced that they were dispatching fact-finding missions to the north African country. According to UN estimates, over 1,000 people have been killed since Libya's uprising began on Feb 14.

More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers. The exodus is creating a humanitarian crisis across the border with Tunisia


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