BRUSSELS/ALGIERS: Natowill keep bombing Moamer Qadhafi’s forces during Ramazan in August as long as the Libyan regime continues to attack civilians during the Muslim holy month, the alliance said on Tuesday.
“We need to wait and see whether the Qadhafi forces continue to shell and inflict harm on the people of Libya,” said the Natooperation’s military spokesman, Wing Commander Mike Bracken.
“If they do, and we believe that there is risk to the lives of the Libyan people, and men, women and children could be slaughtered or attacked, then I think it would be highly appropriate for the protection of those lives to continue,” he said via video link from mission headquarters in Naples, Italy.
In Brussels, alliance spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: “It is hoped that the Qadhafi forces will stop attacking and threatening to attack civilians not just for Ramazan but immediately.”
She recalled that the three military objectives outlined by Natoallies is for Qadhafi to end all attacks on civilians, return his troops to barracks and allow full access to humanitarian aid.
“Until now, unfortunately, the Qadhafi regime has shown a shocking disregard for human life. We have seen the Qadhafi regime forces using civilian populated areas as human shields, using mosques to fire against residential areas.
“So as long as those attacks and those threats continue to be there, Nato’s mission is to protect civilians in Libya.”
Ahead of meeting between NatoSecretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and a rebel delegation in Brussels on Wednesday, Lungescu reiterated that Natobelieves military power alone will not end the conflict and that a political solution was needed.
Mahmud Jibril, the head of the National Transitional Council, will hold bilateral talks with Rasmussen and have an “informal meeting” with the 28-nation alliance’s ambassadors at Natoheadquarters, she said.
The ambassadors “will want to hear what plans the NTC has for the future and ensuring the security and protection of civilians,” Lungescu said. Rasmussen will participate on Friday at the meeting of the contact group on Libya in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, Algeria and Italy Tuesday called for a political solution to the four-month crisis in Libya as the international contact group prepared to meet in Turkey later this week.
“A political solution is the only urgent alternative for a settlement of the Libya crisis,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said at a press conference with his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci.
Frattini said an African Union roadmap for peace in the north African country would be discussed in Istanbul on Friday.
The African Union (AU) proposals recently endorsed at a summit in Equatorial Guinea call for a ceasefire and negotiations on democratic reforms, with provision for a multinational peacekeeping force organised by the United Nations.
So far the AU has been unable to convince the rebels to accept the proposals, or Qadhafi to leave power as the rebellion demands. “The political solution which is part of the African Union proposal has our full attention,” said Medelci.
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Qadhafi shelled rebel positions in the coastal city of Misrata overnight, killing 19 rebels and wounding 22, rebels said in a statement on Tuesday.
French and Libyan officials meanwhile have talked up the chances of negotiating Qadhafi’s withdrawal from power and an end to the conflict wracking his country, after months of military stalemate. France has spearheaded the Western diplomatic and military response to the crisis.
Frattini also said that weapons from Libya were falling into the hands of extremist groups in the Sahel desert region. The Libyan crisis has led to “a transfer of weapons, men and money that fell into the hands of extremist terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region,” he told the press conference.