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12:50, 24 May 2018 Thursday
16:39, 13 April 2011 Wednesday

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Libya rebels \"positive\" on Turkey initiative, demands more
Libya rebels \

Rebel spokesman Shammam said the national council took a positive view of an initiative by Turkey for a peaceful transition in Libya, adding, \"they have to say the magic word -- that Gaddafi must go.\"

Foreign ministers on Wednesday met in Qatar to try to open the deadlock in the country's civil war as Britain pressured other NATO members to beef up ground attacks in Libya.

But divisions within NATO immediately appeared at the international contact group meeting when Belgium ruled out boosting air attacks or arming Libyan rebels.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe attacked NATO on Tuesday for not stopping the bombardment and said it must do more. His British counterpart, William Hague, told Reuters on his way to Doha that other NATO aircraft must join ground attacks.

Britain and France, western Europe's two main military powers, are delivering most of the air strikes on Gaddafi's armour since President Barack Obama ordered U.S. forces to take a back seat. The Americans are providing intelligence, logistical support and air-to-air refuelling, but not bombing.

Other NATO countries are either keeping their distance from the campaign or enforcing a no-fly zone.

The rebels, whose rag-tag army has shown itself incapable of consolidating any advance against Gaddafi's better armed and trained army on the eastern front, despite NATO strikes, again appealed for more weapons.

A spokesman for the rebel national council, which is attending the Doha talks, said the coalition was considering supplying arms which he said should go to trained soldiers who have defected from Gaddafi's army.

"Hawks and doves"

There is clearly a wide gap between NATO hawks and doves.

Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said: "The UN resolution speaks about protecting civilians, not arming them."

And German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "We will not see a military solution" in Libya, but stressed that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had to step down. "Germany is ready to support humanitarian action for the people of Libya."

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rassmussen agreed that a political settlement was the only solution.

"We hope this meeting can facilitate a political solution for the problem in Libya, and obviously there is no military solution so we have to initiate a political process," he said

British Foreign Secretary William Hague was upbeat about the meeting and said it would "strengthen" the pressure on Kadhafi to step down.

"It is impossible for anyone to see a viable future for Libya with Colonel Kadhafi in power," Hague told reporters ahead of the meeting.

"Pressure for Kadhafi to go will increase at the meeting today. It will strengthen, not weaken," he said.

Hague also suggested that the meeting would look at setting up funding streams from Gulf states to help maintain services in the rebel-held east.

"I hope we can agree to set up a temporary financial mechanism in the region for the benefit of the Interim National Council-controlled areas of Libya," he said, referring to the rebels' shadow government.

"Positive view on Turkey initiative"

Rebel spokesman Mahmud Awad Shammam said the national council took a positive view of an initiative by Muslim NATO member Turkey, which initially opposed military action, for a peaceful transition in Libya.

But he added: "They have to say the magic word -- that Gaddafi must go."

Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim lashed out against the West's "imperialist way of thinking", accusing world powers of trying to impose political change on Libya.

Moussa Koussa, a former Libyan foreign minister who fled to Britain last month, was in Doha on the sidelines of the contact group talks to meet the rebels, the British government said. But the rebel spokesman said they did not plan to speak to him.

"We do not want to speak to Moussa Koussa ... because of his human rights record," Shammam said.

An Italian foreign ministry official said in Doha that the ministers would look at creating a fund from Libya's frozen assets to aid the rebels.

A rebel representative said they would ask for $1.5 billion in aid for civilians.

Rebel spokesman Shammam said the rebels wanted to increase exports of crude oil to secure humanitarian aid rather than cash. Shammam said the insurgents were only exporting a minimal amount.

NATO took over air operations from a coalition of the United States, Britain and France on March 31 and the rebels have accused it of not doing enough.

The United States has specialist ground-attack aircraft on standby in Italy but the biggest problem for coalition aircraft is fear of hitting civilians, with Gaddafi hiding his armour in residential areas.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition that they not be identified, said Washington's position had not shifted. But they added that some powerful weapons unique to the U.S. military -- probably A-10 Warthog ground-attack aircraft or AC-130 gunships -- could be deployed against Gaddafi's heavy weaponry.

The Pentagon said on Tuesday however that NATO had not asked the United States to intensify its military operations.

The range of views among the 28 members of the NATO alliance is wide. Germany, Turkey and Poland opposed the Libya operation and are not involved in the air campaign.

Italy has said its aircraft will not open fire, the Dutch are enforcing the no-fly zone but may not bomb ground targets and non-NATO Swedish planes may only open fire in self-defence while patrolling the no-fly zone.


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