NATO urged to widen Libya bombing

THE head of Britain’s armed forces has urged NATO to widen its bombing campaign as a revolt against Libya’s regime entered its fourth month and the United Nations special envoy was expected in Tripoli today.

“The vice is closing on (Muammar) Gaddafi, but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action,” General David Richards, chief of the defence staff, told the Sunday Telegraph.

The general said he wanted NATO member states to support the targeting of Gaddafi’s regime, not just targets which pose an immediate threat to civilians, such as tanks and artillery.

“The military campaign to date has been a significant success for NATO and our Arab allies, but we need to do more.” Richards said.

“At present, NATO is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit.”

Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, said in Athens that he would travel to Tripoli on Sunday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was dispatching Khatib for talks with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.

Ban said in Geneva he had urged Mahmudi on Tuesday to halt attacks on civilians immediately and called for “immediate verifiable ceasefire negotiations towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict and unimpeded access to humanitarian workers”.

Protests against Gaddafi’s 41-year autocratic rule began on February 15 and quickly escalated into a popular uprising, inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled their respective hardline rulers.

Gaddafi ordered his forces to crush the uprising, prompting an armed rebellion which has seen much of eastern Libya fall into the hands of insurgents who have vowed to march on Tripoli and topple Gaddafi.

On March 19, French, US and British forces, under a UN mandate to protect civilians, launched air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces in a campaign that was taken over by NATO on March 31.

The alliance has been accused by the Libyan regime of failing to comply with its mandate by going after civilian targets and putting Gaddafi himself in their crosshairs.

State news agency JANA reported new NATO air strikes late on Saturday in the Libyan regions of Bir Al-Ghanam, Njila and the city of Al-Azizya, southwest of Tripoli.

Citing a military source, the agency reported that “civilian and military” sites had been targeted and that the strikes had caused “human and material damage”. It provided no further details.

The Gaddafi regime has criticised a NATO air strike on the eastern city of Brega that the alliance said targeted a military site.

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