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Obama, Berlusconi agree to increase pressure on Libya's Gaddafi

RIA Novosti

04:04 26/04/2011 WASHINGTON, April 26 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have agreed to increase military pressure on Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi's forces, the White House said in a statement.

Berlusconi called Obama on Monday informing the U.S. president of his decision to provide additional military support to NATO operation in Libya by authorizing air-to-ground strikes on pro-Gaddafi targets.

"The two leaders agreed that additional pressure is necessary to strengthen the civilian protection mission, and President [Obama] emphasized that the best way to ensure the safety of the Libyan people is for Qaddafi to leave power," the statement said.

The statement added that President Obama "welcomed Italy's role in hosting the next meeting of the Libya Contact Group on May 5 in Rome, where the international community will discuss how to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on the Qaddafi regime and provide additional support to the Transitional National Council."

NATO has been bombarding Gaddafi's forces under a UN-mandated no-fly zone to protect civilians. The alliance said it had stepped up strikes around Tripoli and four other cities in recent days.

On Sunday, Gaddafi's forces shelled areas of the port city of Misurata, the only major rebel-held city in western Libya, despite the government saying it had halted fighting so that local tribes could negotiate with the rebels.

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