Pro-Gaddafi forces still threaten 200,000 people, NATO says
Forces loyal to fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi still represent a threat to about 200,000 people out of a total Libyan population of over 6 million, NATO said on Thursday, dpa reported
The military alliance intervened in Libya under a United Nations mandate to prevent attacks against civilians - a mandate which has nonetheless paved the way for rebels to rout the Gaddafi regime from most of the country.
"As of today we assess that around 200,000 people still face actions by (Gaddafi) regime forces," Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, the commander of NATO's operations in Libya, told reporters in Naples.
His remarks were retransmitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Bouchard said pro-Gaddafi forces were in control of only "three isolated areas" - the leader's hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and Al Fuqaha.
"My assessment today is that Gaddafi forces are no longer able to conduct coordinated operations throughout Libya, but rather have been reduced to tactical actions in isolated pockets," Bouchard said.
"We are now at a point where I could only urge regime forces to surrender, to bring an end to these activities and to find a peaceful settlement," he said.
"But clearly, if they opt not to do that and continue to threaten the population, we will take all necessary measures to bring that to an end," he added.
On Wednesday, NATO countries agreed to extend the mandate for Libyan operations by a further three months, until the end of the year.
Bouchard said he was "highly confident" the mission would be completed "well within" that timeframe.