NATO sceptical of alleged Gaddafi ceasefire offer
NATO dismissed an alleged Libyan government ceasefire offer on Friday, as two international rights groups condemned indiscriminate attacks in the western Nafusa Mountains area by Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's forces, dpa reported.
"You may have seen press reports of a letter from the Gaddafi regime proposing a ceasefire. It was not sent to NATO. And anyway, words are not enough. The regime has made similar statements before and then continued shelling," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told reporters in Brussels.
On Thursday, Libya's government called for a ceasefire and unconditional talks with the opposition. Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi reportedly wrote to several countries about the plan, including Spain.
The ceasefire offer is allegedly based on an African Union plan to end the three-month conflict, but does not mention the future of Gaddafi. A key demand of the opposition is that he stands down.
The United States did not see the offer as credible, according to White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, speaking at the G8 summit in Deauville, France.
Meanwhile, London-based Amnesty International said that attacks by Gaddafi's forces have forced many civilians to flee the area across the nearby border into Tunisia, while scores of young men have disappeared and have not been seen from or heard of again.
The group called on the government to stop its "indiscriminate weapons (cluster weapons, anti-personnel landmines, Grad rockets), and lift arbitrary restrictions to access to water, electricity, fuel and other basic necessities in the region.
"Grad rocket attacks are launched almost every day into residential areas with no discernible military target," said Sarah Lea Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Residents in the western cities have made several pleas for help, as the area have been under siege - suffering daily attack by Gaddafi's forces - since early April.
There was a complete cut in electric service on Thursday to the towns of Zintan, Jadu and Ar-Rujban due to attacks by Gaddafi's forces on the electricity network, the opposition group Libya Hurra said.
On Friday, the G8 stressed it is resolved to see Gaddafi leave, with US President Barack Obama warning that NATO-led airstrikes would not end until the Libyan leader was ousted from power.
Speaking to Brussels journalists via videolink from operational headquarters in Naples, the commander of the NATO operations, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, said Friday that the alliance would press on with its air attacks.
Five explosions were heard near the Gaddafi's Babal-Aziziyah compound late Thursday, as NATO planes bombed targets in Tripoli overnight.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the regime is feeling the pressure of our successes," Bouchard said, also mentioning that a Libyan helicopter was shot down on Thursday in the western city of Zintan.
But he warned that pro-Gaddafi forces continued to pose a "significant" threat - saying that they had been spotted laying down anti-personnel mines around Misurata "in contravention to international law ... to prevent the population from moving."
Bouchard said there were no fixed deadlines for ending hostilities, reiterating NATO's three conditions: an end to violence; the retreat of military forces from built up areas, allowing for a "certifiable" ceasefire; and unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
"I am really optimistic that we will see a response soon, but when I cannot tell you that," he said.
NATO Unified Protector mission was given a three-month mandate starting March 31. Lungescu, acknowledging that NATO countries would have to "formally extend the mission," said that the alliance is "currently reviewing the effects of the operation" and would "then decide how to go forwards."