Defiant Gadhafi Denounces NATO as “Murderers”

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 6:20 am (UTC-5)
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Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has vowed to continue fighting, as he denounced NATO for airstrikes that caused civilian casualties.

Mr. Gadhafi said in an audio statement broadcast late Wednesday that NATO states are “murderers” who have “killed our children and grandchildren.”

NATO acknowledged an airstrike on Sunday that caused civilian casualties and one on Friday that hit a column of rebel military vehicles. A NATO military spokesman said the Sunday incident was caused by a “weapon malfunction” and the Friday incident was a case of mistaken identity.

Mr. Gadhafi's remarks came as France and Britain rejected an Italian call for a halt to military action in order to allow aid access.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini Wednesday called for a suspension in fighting so aid corridors could be set up to bring supplies to Libya's population, which he said was facing “a dramatic humanitarian situation.”

Frattini's comments drew a swift rebuke from NATO ally France. Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the coalition must “intensify the pressure on Mr. Gadhafi” because any pause in operations would allow him to gain time and reorganize. Britain, one of the first countries to support Libya's rebellion along with France, agreed.

Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted outgoing Arab League head Amr Moussa as also calling for a cease-fire, saying now is the time to reach a political solution to the crisis.

Also Wednesday, Denmark became the latest country to officially recognize the rebel council.

Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen made a surprise visit to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, where she conveyed the Danish parliament's decision to recognize the council and continue military support.

Rebels fighting Mr. Gadhafi's forces have taken over much of the eastern half of the country. They also control pockets in the west, including the vital port city of Misrata, about 200 kilometers from the capital, Tripoli.

A medical official at a field hospital near the front lines in Dafniya, west of Misrata, said at least two rebels were killed in renewed fighting Wednesday. Four opposition fighters died and 50 were wounded in clashes with loyalist forces the day before.