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NATO 'Will Do Everything' To Defend Misurata's Civilians

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 06.04.2011 14:04

NATO has vowed to do everything to protect the population of Libya's besieged rebel stronghold of Misurata.

NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero said today that Misurata was the alliance's "No. 1 priority," after NATO was accused by Libyan rebels of failing to protect civilians in Misurata, Libya's third-largest city.

Abdel Fattah Younes, the top commander of rebel forces, has said allied aircraft did nothing while forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi kept up their 40-day-long artillery bombardment of the city, which is located some 200 kilometers east of Tripoli.

The UN Security Council last month authorized the use of foreign air power to protect civilians from attacks by Qaddafi's forces on rebel-held cities.

NATO last week took control of the operation from a Western military coalition that included the United States, France, and Britain.

Romero said the operations had continued "at the same rhythm" since NATO took control. She said air power had destroyed about one-third of Qaddafi's military capacity thus far, but that Qaddafi's forces were now using human shields.

Separately, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet pledged today to open a sea corridor to let Libyan rebels in the eastern stronghold of Benghazi ship aid and supplies to Misurata.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported near the eastern oil town of Brega, where the rebels are trying to regain territory lost to Qaddafi's forces.

Obama Rebuffs Qaddafi Letter

The White House said today after receiving a letter from Muammar Qaddafi, that the Libyan leader will be judged on his actions in ending violence against civilians and not his words.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama flew to an event in Philadelphia that the letter "obviously not the first."

Carney said Obama had made clear several weeks ago that a ceasefire in Libya would be dependent on "actions not words, [and] a cessation of violence."

The official Libyan news agency JANA said that Qaddafi sent the letter to Obama following the withdrawal of U.S. war planes from frontline missions in the coalition air operation over Libya.

compiled from agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/libya_ nato_fighting/3548602.html

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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