SHELLING by forces loyal to Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi killed 11 people and wounded another 57, almost all civilians, in the western rebel enclave of Misrata, insurgents said.
Earlier, the sources said five rebels were killed in fighting at the western entrance to the city, the sources said.
“Eleven people were killed and 57 wounded, almost all of them civilians,” a rebel source said by telephone from Misrata. 200 kilometres east of Tripoli.
The news came as Paris said the rebels, increasingly confident on the ground, no longer need weapons drops from France, and as a senior Russian official reported that Mr Gaddafi is conditionally ready to step down.
Meanwhile, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance would like to see to see the United Nations assume the leading role in Libya’s transition to democracy in the event Mr Gaddafi leaves power.
“There is emerging a political order distinct from that of Tripoli,” French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said.
“The (rebel) territories are organising their autonomy… That is why the parachute drops are no longer necessary.”
Last week, France said it supplied light arms including rifles and rocket launchers to the rebels for “self-defence” in line with a UN resolution and that it informed NATO and the Security Council of its plan to do so.
Russia criticised the arms drops, and France’s NATO ally Britain expressed reservations.
UN Security Council Resolution 1970, passed in February, prohibited states from providing any kind of arms to Libya. Resolution 1973 in March authorised nations “to take all necessary measures” to help protect civilians.
Mr Longuet was cautious about the rebels’ chances of defeating Mr Gaddafi in a major offensive they have said they are preparing on Tripoli.
They have a “growing capacity to organise politically and militarily” but are “currently not in a stabilised, centralised system”, he said.
On the diplomatic front, an unnamed senior Russian official was quoted overnight as saying Mr Gaddafi is ready to cede power in exchange for security guarantees.
“The Colonel is sending signals that he is ready to cede power in exchange for security guarantees,” the Kommersant newspaper quoted the official as saying.
The Russian source said that France appeared the country most willing to play a part by unfreezing some of the Gaddafi family’s accounts and promising to help him avoid trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Yesterday, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim had said contacts between Tripoli and rebel-stronghold Benghazi were continuing across several cities in Europe in order to seek a reconciliation and avoid bloodshed.
The Kommersant report came a day after NATO’s Rasmussen discussed Libya in Russia with President Dmitry Medvedev and South African President Jacob Zuma, fresh from an African Union (AU) summit that tried to forge a regional peace plan.
Russia has advocated the AU taking a leading role in negotiations to end the conflict, and Mr Zuma, highly critical of NATO air raids, told Mr Medvedev he hoped the alliance would better appreciate the AU’s concerns.
One of the new elements in the road map agreed by the AU on Saturday included provisions for a multinational peacekeeping force organised by the United Nations.
But the rebels have thus far rejected the AU’s settlement terms and Russia has also failed to convince Gaddafi to leave.
“There is absolutely no current or future possibility for Gaddafi to remain in Libya,” said National Transitional Council (NTC) chief Mustafa Mohammed Abdel Jalil.
“There is no escape clause for Gaddafi – he must be removed from power and face justice,” Mr Jalil said.