Libya announces cease-fire amid ongoing international attacks | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 20.03.2011
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Libya announces cease-fire amid ongoing international attacks

The Libyan military has announced an immediate cease-fire in response to intense attacks by US, UK and French forces. The international coalition says the UN-backed no-fly zone over Libya has been successfully enforced.

Turkish television image of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi

Moammar Gadhafi promised a "long, drawn-out war"

Libya's armed forces on Sunday announced an immediate cease-fire in the campaign against the uprising as a second night of international air strikes got under way.

A military spokesman told a televised news conference, that all units had been ordered to observe the cease-fire.

"The Libyan armed forces ... have issued a command to all military units to safeguard an immediate cease-fire from 9pm (1900 GMT) this evening," he said, adding that the cease-fire had been decided following an African Union call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

But US Vice Admiral Bill Gortney told reporters in Washington that the Pentagon questioned all statements coming from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's government, including that of an imminent cease-fire.

US Tomahawk missile being launched

The US has launched missile attacks on Libya

The Libyan army announced an earlier cease-fire shortly after the UN resolution on the no-fly zone was passed on Thursday, but did not stick to it.

No-fly zone 'successfully enforced'

Gortney said the strikes on Gadhafi's forces had been "quite successful," adding that allied forces were "not going after" Gadhafi himself.

Earlier on Sunday, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox also said the bombing raids had been "very successful."

The comments came after the United States, along with France and Britain, unleashed a barrage of strikes against the Libyan regime's air defenses on Saturday and Sunday. US President Barack Obama said the use of force amounted to a "limited military action" and ruled out sending ground troops to Libya.

The decision to begin military action was made in response to Gadhafi's continued attacks against rebel-held Benghazi, despite promising a cease-fire, and in defiance of a United Nations no-fly zone imposed on Thursday.

In attacks on Sunday night, a building within the residential compound of Gadhafi was hit. One coalition official told the news agency AFP that it had been a command and control center for the Gadhafi regime while Libyan officials claimed it was part of a plot to assassinate their leader.

A NATO meeting in Brussels, which broke up late on Sunday, failed to produce a decision on details of how the no-fly zone would be enforced. Delegates, who did approve a plan on policing an arms embargo, were set to meet again on Monday.

Opposition to intervention builds

But opposition to military strikes is also building. The head of the Arab League, which gave its backing to the no-fly zone and whose support was seen as crucial by the Western coalition, on Sunday criticized the military action.

Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League

Moussa complained that the coalition had gone too far

"What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives," Amr Moussa said. "What we want is civilians' protection, not shelling more civilians."

Russia, which abstained in Thursday's Security Council vote instead of using its veto, called for an end to "indiscriminate use of force" by the coalition, citing the casualties reported by Tripoli of 64 dead and 150 injured.

Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the air raids had included attacks on non-military targets, and had damaged roads, bridges, and a cardiology center.

China also expressed regret over the multinational air strikes in Libya on Sunday, saying in a foreign ministry statement that it opposed the use of force in international relations.

"China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks," the statement said.

Gadhafi condemns "crusade"

A speech apparently delivered by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was broadcast on Libyan state TV Sunday, condemning as a "crusade" the attacks inflicted by an international coalition on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"You have proven before the world that you are not civilized," he said, addressing the Western-led coalition. "You have proven that you are terrorist animals. Islam will be strengthened after today. We are the leaders of this revolution."

"We promise you a long drawn-out war and patience that has no limit," he said. "We are not afraid. You are not going to frighten us with your weapons.”

Libyan state TV also showed pictures of what were claimed to be civilian casualties of the bombings. Libyan officials said 64 people had been killed by Western forces.

The US said it had "no indication" of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces, according to Vice Admiral Bill Gortney.

Libyan government soldiers

Gadhafi said Libyans were prepared to die to defend their country from the West

Britain's Fox also dismissed those claims as a "propaganda exercise" and said that the coalition's "targeting is done to absolutely minimize, as far as is humanly possible, casulaties."

Misery in Benghazi

At least 94 people were killed in an assault launched two days ago on the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi by Gadhafi's forces, it was reported Sunday.

At least 24 bodies of fighters and civilians, many burnt beyond recognition, lay in the morgue of Benghazi's main hospital on Sunday and more may have been stored in refrigeration units, according to Reuters news agency.

The hospital's wards were filled with men, women and children wounded in Saturday's assault by Gadhafi's forces on the rebels' eastern stronghold.

One doctor, Ibrahim Beheih, said by Saturday night 32 deaths had been recorded in the hospital and 66 wounded.

Fighting continued in the rebel-held town of Misrata, with reports saying that tanks had entered the city-center and boats had encircled the port, preventing aid from getting through.

Author: Ben Knight, Nicole Goebel, Richard Connor (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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