Friday, June 3, 2011

US says Gaddafi isolated, Moscow in mediation bid

US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen said yesterday that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was increasingly isolated as Russia announced it would send envoys to Tripoli and Benghazi to mediate the conflict.

The UN, meanwhile, denounced war crimes committed both by Gaddafi forces and the rebels vying to oust the Libyan strongman.

“There are from my perspective some signs... that Gaddafi is becoming more and more isolated,” Admiral Mullen told reporters in Washington.

Admiral Mullen pointed to the defection of oil minister Shukri Ghanem, who had been a key figure in the regime, along with a group of “young generals” who had also parted with Colonel Gaddafi. He also welcomed Nato’s extension of its UN-mandated mission to protect civilians through military action until late September.

An AFP correspondent said a series of blasts overnight shook the Libyan capital. In its latest operational update released yesterday, Nato said its jets had bombed a vehicle store and surface-to-air missile launcher in the vicinity of Tripoli.

Earlier, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that Col Gaddafi’s departure was only a question of time.

“The question is not if Gaddafi will go but when,” Mr Rasmussen said. “It could take some time yet but it could also happen tomorrow.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow will be sending an envoy to Tripoli and the rebels’ capital of Benghazi to mediate, the Italian news agency Ansa reported, quoting diplomats.

Mr Medvedev stressed the importance of a negotiated settlement at talks with Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome yesterday. Russia has enjoyed close ties with col Gaddafi’s regime and abstained from a UN Security Council vote in March that gave the go-ahead for international military action against Libya.

A commission of inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva accused Col Gaddafi’s regime of carrying out systematic attacks on the population, charging it committed not only crimes against humanity but also war crimes.

While it found fewer reports of violations by the opposition, the commission also said rebel forces committed acts that constituted war crimes. The commission continue:

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