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NATO Increases Pressure on Libya's Pro-Government Forces

VOA News May 18, 2011

NATO is stepping up pressure on the Libyan government's strongholds with targeted aerial attacks and psychological warfare operations.

Wing Commander Mike Bracken said Tuesday NATO has air-dropped leaflets and broadcast messages to troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi asking them "to return to their barracks and homes.''

The messages also urge them to move away from any military equipment, as they are potential targets for NATO airstrikes.

Airstrikes by the alliance targeted a building used by Libya's security services in the capital, Tripoli Tuesday, as well as the headquarters of the anti-corruption agency. Both structures were on fire after the bombing.

Meanwhile, pressure continues on the diplomatic front. Canada says it is expelling five diplomats from the Libyan embassy in Ottawa for what it calls "inappropriate" actions that are "inconsistent with normal diplomatic functions." The foreign affairs ministry announced the action in a statement on Tuesday. The ministry says Canada has not severed ties with Libya, but has suspended operations at its embassy in Tripoli.

Libya is also getting pressure from neighboring Tunisia concerning shelling from Libya on to Tunisian soil. Tunisia's state-run TAP news agency says the government considers the shelling "hostile activity" and may refer the issue to the United Nations.

Russia has urged Libya to comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution and withdraw its armed forces from civilian areas. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with representatives of the Libyan government Tuesday in Moscow. Lavrov said the Libyans expressed a willingness to look at an African Union peace plan if NATO ends its bombing campaign.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said U.N. and Libyan officials are looking for a way for the embattled Libyan leader to go into exile.

In a separate development, officials in Tunisia say Libya's oil minister has left his post and defected to their country. Libyan officials have not confirmed the defection. Shukri Ghanem was the chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation and veteran member of Gadhafi's regime.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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