New Airstrikes Target Libyan Captial

Posted June 10th, 2011 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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A new round of suspected NATO airstrikes shook the Libyan capital early Friday, a day after allied and Arab nations pledged more than $1.1 billion to help Libya's opposition council and civilians affected by the country's conflict.

The 22-member Libya Contact Group announced the series of financial measures Thursday as it met in the United Arab Emirates to plan for a Libya without its embattled leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

Italy – Libya's former colonial ruler – said it will commit nearly $600 million in assistance to Libyan rebels, while France pledged more than $420 million in support. Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey also promised funds.

The United States did not offer direct aid to the rebels, but will provide an additional $26.5 million in humanitarian relief to all Libyans.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the conference Mr. Gadhafi's “days are numbered.”

Russia's special envoy to Libya, Mikhail Margelov, says Mr. Gadhafi has lost the “moral right to lead Libya” after attacking his own people. Margelov recently met with rebel leaders in their stronghold Benghazi, and is planning to meet with members of Mr. Gadhafi's government in his efforts to mediate an end to the crisis.

Clinton said talks are under way with people close to Mr. Gadhafi that have raised the “potential” for a transition of power. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd also referred to what he called multiple “feelers” from the Tripoli government, saying the Libyan leader's end “may come sooner” than expected.

Australia has joined a handful of countries – including France, Britain, Italy and Qatar – in formally recognizing the rebel council as the legitimate government of Libya.

In Washington Thursday, CIA chief Leon Panetta said in Senate testimony that the NATO military operation and strong economic sanctions are putting tremendous pressure on Mr. Gadhafi's government. Panetta is U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Robert Gates as defense secretary.

Meanwhile, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade met with Libyan opposition leaders in the rebel stronghold, Benghazi. He told journalists Thursday the sooner Mr. Gadhafi leaves, the better.

Heavy NATO bombardments hit military and command targets across Tripoli Tuesday and Wednesday in some of the heaviest strikes since March. The assaults included air raids near Mr. Gadhafi's residential compound.

Mustafa Shaban commented on Thursday, a day after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said investigators have evidence Mr. Gadhafi ordered mass rapes of women considered disloyal to his regime.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his team is looking into whether the Libyan leader provided soldiers with Viagra-like medicines in order to promote the rape of women. He said he may present new charges of mass rape against Mr. Gadhafi.