Libya’s Rebels Give Deadline to Gadhafi Forces

Posted August 30th, 2011 at 3:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Libya's opposition National Transitional Council has announced a deadline for forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in his hometown of Sirte to surrender.

NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Tuesday in the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi that rebels will resort to military action in Sirte if they get no indication by Saturday of a peaceful end to the conflict there. Rebels say they are bracing for a final battle to gain control of most of the country.

Mr. Gadhafi has not been seen since rebel fighters seized the capital, Tripoli, last week, and Sirte is considered one area where he may be hiding.

Algeria allowed some of Mr. Gadhafi's family members – including his wife Safiya, daughter Aisha, and two of his sons, Mohammad and Hannibal – to enter the country from Libya on Monday.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Gadhafi family was under a U.N.-mandated travel ban, and Algeria has 48 hours to explain why it allowed the family members to cross the border.

Nuland confirmed Tuesday that Algeria sent a letter of explanation to the international community. She said the U.S. has “concerns” as to why Algeria violated the international ban but will decide how to respond after the U.N. and the NTC review the letter.

Algerian government officials said Mr. Gadhafi's daughter Aisha gave birth to a girl in Algeria on Tuesday.

Rebel leaders in Libya have demanded authorities in Algeria extradite members of the Gadhafi family.

The U.N. late Tuesday approved Britain's appeal to release $1.55 billion in seized Libyan assets to address urgent humanitarian needs. Britain says the money will go to the Central Bank of Libya.

Last week, the U.N. approved the United States' request to release $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the NTC for humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, NATO's Colonel Roland Lavoie told reporters Tuesday the alliance is aware of negotiations going on between pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces in Mr. Gadhafi's hometown. Rebel forces have drawn closer to Sirte, and NATO has carried out airstrikes against radar sites, missile systems and armed vehicles.

Colonel Lavoie said Mr. Gadhafi remains a “global threat” and “continues to threaten the overall population of Libya.” He added that Mr. Gadhafi still displays the ability to command and control military forces and weapons and has shown “no intent to retreat peacefully and call his forces off hostilities.”

Also on Tuesday, a U.S. human rights group said it had uncovered evidence of possible war crimes by pro-Gadhafi forces in Misrata.

Physicians for Human Rights said in a report that forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi carried out murder, torture, rape and forced internment. The report said the troops forced civilians to act as human shields to guard military munitions from NATO attacks, and blocked civilians from receiving humanitarian aid.

The World Food Program said Tuesday it is sending 600 metric tons of food to Tripoli along with other urgent supplies, including water, medicine and fuel to help people affected by the fighting. The group said the food will be distributed by the Libyan Red Crescent and help feed 35,000 people for one month.

Zimbabwe on Tuesday expelled the Libyan ambassador and his staff after they claimed allegiance to Libya's NTC. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is a strong ally of Mr. Gadhafi, and Zimbabwe has not recognized the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.