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US reportedly seeks refuge for Gadhafi as fighting in Libya intensifies

The United States has reportedly started looking for a country that will host Moammar Gadhafi once the Libyan leader is forced out of power. Meanwhile, his troops continued to pound the besieged city of Misrata.

Gadhafi at sitting in front of flags at African Union summit

Moammar Gadhafi has close ties in many African nations

The United States has begun to search for countries that could provide refuge to the embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, according to a report published by The New York Times.

The report came after the United States, Britain and France released a jointly written newspaper article on Friday stating it was "unthinkable" that Gadhafi would remain in power.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy said Sunday that the "main goal" of the NATO-led mission in Libya was Gadhafi's overthrow.

"Gadhafi is still there, but he's weakened," he told journalists. "I think we should maintain military pressure, which is not action by the European Union but by NATO, and act in such a way that he goes."

The International Criminal Court's (ICC) probe into possible war crimes committed by the Gadhafi regime complicates the search for a suitable country.

Three administration officials cited in the article said Washington may opt for a country that has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, which requires signatories to turn over wanted war criminals.

Around half the countries in Africa have not signed the Rome Statute. Gadhafi has strong business and military ties across the continent, which raises the possibility he could seek refuge in an African nation should he be forced from power.

Cluster bombs

Meanwhile, the Gadhafi regime has denied bombing the besieged, rebel-held city of Misrata with cluster bombs. Cluster bombs explode in the air and scatter armor piercing munitions over a wide area. They are illegal under international law in over 100 countries.

"Absolutely no," sadi Mussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Gadhafi government, when asked if pro-Gadhafi forces used cluster bombs. "Morally, legally we can't do this. We never do it."

The US-based rights group Human Rights Watch had reported the use of cluster bombs, which according to The New York Times, were produced in Spain.

Residents of Misrata indicated that the weapon was being widely used.

"Last night it was like rain," said Misrata-resident Hazam Abu Zaid.

Child with rebel holding flag with destroy tank behind them

Fighting continues on the roads between Ajdabiyah and Misrata

Siege continues

The Gadhafi regime's siege of Misrata continued on Sunday with rockets and mortars pounding the city. On Saturday, Gadhafi loyalists reportedly destroyed a dairy plant.

"They are trying to starve us to death, attacking the dairy, the water purification plant," said Jiraal, a Libyan who had returned from England to fight with the rebels.

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders says that the situation in Misrata has become dire.

"With the latest heavy bombardments in Misrata, the situation is worsening, as hospitals have to discharge patients before their treatment is completed in order to treat the new wounded from the fighting," said Morten Rostrop, a doctor with the aid organization.

Rebels also launched a renewed push to retake the oil port of Brega from Gadhafi, with Gadhafi loyalists reportedly entrenched in houses in the city center.

Gadhafi forces and rebels have also been fighting on a stretch of road between Brega and the Ajdabiyah. Ajdabiyah has largely become a ghost town since fighting began, with most of its 100,000 residents taking refuge elsewhere to escape the fighting.

Despite the heavy fighting, rebels traveling between Ajdabiyah and Brega remained optimistic.

"Hit us with your rockets; hit us with your tank; we have no problem; we will win," rebels sang outside of Ajdabiyah.

Author: Spencer Kimball (Reuters, AFP)

Editor: Toma Tasovac

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