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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Fighting rages near Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli - media

RIA Novosti

16:35 23/08/2011 CAIRO, August 23 (RIA Novosti) - Fighting between Muammar Gaddafi loyalists and rebel forces is taking place near the Libyan leader's compound in Tripoli, Al Arabiya TV said on Tuesday.

"Journalists at the nearby Rixos hotel were shaken by a loud explosion at around 9.00 am [11:00 GMT], followed by the sound of rocket and heavy artillery fire," the TV channel said.

"Fighting raged in surrounding neighborhoods while planes thought to be those of NATO flew over the city."

No reliable information on whether Gaddafi has left Tripoli or is still in the city is available.

Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told the Russia Today TV Channel that despite no direct involvement of the alliance forces in the ground fighting, the role of NATO in the Libyan opposition's advance to Tripoli cannot be underestimated.

Rogozin said that, according to unofficial data, the storming of Tripoli and other Libyan cities had been done with the help of military instructors and so-called 'soldiers of fortune' - former NATO soldiers who are now working for unofficial security forces and security firms.

"So, these soldiers of fortune also take part in that. No one is denying that. But if you ask a direct question, whether NATO takes part in the ground operation, or whether major Western forces have taken part in storming Libyan cities, the answer you will get is of course 'no,' which is no surprise," the Russian diplomat said. "They'll never confirm what is becoming evident to everyone else."

He said that NATO "usurped" the right to execute the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on March 17, which urged measures to protect civilians from Gaddafi's forces but stopped short of authorizing ground operations in the North African country.

"No one gave them [NATO] the UN mandate. They took it upon themselves," Rogozin said. "The power to execute the resolution wasn't given to any sole organization. NATO for all intents and purposes usurped this right. So if there is a mandate, they will execute it as they see fit. If there isn't one, they'll grant it to themselves."

"They are quite shrewd and experienced people, and they'll always find a way to ensure at least a fig leaf of legitimacy for their presence in Libya," the Russian envoy to NATO said.

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