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Air raids in Libya continue amid doubts of motive

2011-03-24 15:26

TRIPOLI- Western air strikes in Libya entered its sixth day on Thursday as the world questioned the motive behind.

Though the air raids were claimed as a way to safeguard the UN resolution imposing a no-fly zone in the North African country, the real intent were in doubts.

US State Secretary Hillary Clinton on Wednesday urged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to leave power, saying "the quickest way for him to end this is to actually serve the Libyan people by leaving."

Airstrikes target ground forces

According to the US Department of Defense, a total of 336 sorties have been flown by the Western military, including 108 air strikes since the start of the operations against Libya.

Earlier reports said that with no Libyan planes taking to the sky in the past 24 hours due to its own air force disarray, the coalition military has been targeting Libyan ground forces so as to further clamp down on Gaddafi.

On Wednesday night, several targets in the Tajoura district in Tripoli's eastern suburb were attacked by three rounds of bombing, and a military engineering institute was hit and caught fire.

Several cars parking nearby or passing by were also struck by the bombing and people inside were injured, local residents told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, Libyan media said Wednesday that "a large number" of civilians have been killed in east Tripoli by Western air strikes, which is yet to be confirmed by the authorities. But a spokesperson from the Libyan government denied earlier reports saying that Khamis, a son of Gaddafi, was killed in the first round of West strikes on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations of the US Navy has said the military campaign over Libya is not "especially costly" from a funding standpoint, as there were already deployments in the Mediterranean Sea before Libya's situation flared up.

Roughead's remarks came hours after the US Navy dispatched three more warships to the Mediterranean, which carried hundreds of Marines, a team of surgeons and a helicopter sea combat squadron.

France's ambition doubted

Meanwhile, a France-proposed political steering committee over the situation in Libya has fixed its first session on next Tuesday in London, with the participation of foreign ministers from United States, France, Britain and other involved countries.

The meeting is expected to discuss ways to neutralize Gaddafi's power on the ground.

A new poll published Wednesday on local daily France-Soir showed that around 66 percent of French people supported the military intervention in Libya, while 34 percent showed disapproval. This represented a change in public attitude compared with a previous poll conducted in early March, which showed 63 percent of French people opposed this intervention.

But France's enthusiasm was also doubted by many inside the country.

"This operation which aimed at making a no-fly zone, quickly turned into a war, and does not protect civilians," Marine le Pen, head of the National Front, the French far right party, said in an interview.

"France has put his finger in the gears and has to assume the responsibility of the failure," warned Roland Muzeau, the spokesman of communist deputies in the National Assembly.

The Socialist that supported the intervention at first cast doubt too. "We approved an operation in the framework of UN resolutions and we hailed the first results. But we have to take into account the risk of reversal of the Arab opinion. Libya should not be another Iraq," said Jean-Marc Ayrault, the president of the Socialist in Parliament.

Responses across the world

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for an immediate end to violence by all parties and for the responsibility to protect civilians.

"All those who violate international humanitarian and human rights law will be held fully accountable," a spokesman quoted Ban as saying.

Meanwhile, countries across the world continued to voice their concern.

The Russian State Duma, or the lower house of the Russian Parliament, on Wednesday issued a statement calling on Western countries to stop military operations against Libya to avoid possible deaths among the civilians.

Venezuela also condemned the military aggression against Libya, saying it violates the country's sovereignty and self-determination.

The Sri Lankan government also said it does not approve or encourage the airstrikes in Libya which run contrary to the UN resolution aimed at alleviating civilian suffering.

Continued attacks and bombardments have also put the role of the Arab League (AL) under increasing dispute.

Many said the AL made a mistake when consenting to the intervention in Libya, a campaign motivated by the oil interests of participating countries and likely to affect regional stability.

AL chief Amr Moussa also said that the assaults went beyond last week's UN resolution, and Arab media sources told Xinhua that Moussa was trying to back down after he learned of civilian casualties.

"What we are seeing is the same scenario as Iraq, in which the Western forces use the mandate of the AL to enforce a no-fly zone and immediately begin bombing the entire infrastructure," said an African diplomat.

"The main objective of those countries is guaranteeing Libyan oil and wealth. Their actions will create clashes between the two Libyan factions while at the same time weakening them and making them very dependent on the West," he added.

"At the end, we will see an economically backward Libya and an easy flowing of low-priced oil. This is what we see in Iraq and this is what we will see in Libya," he said.

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