Fighting in Libya
Photo: AP
Forces advancing. Gaddafi
Photo: Reuters
Threat of military action. Obama
Photo: AP

Libya says will not attack Benghazi under ceasefire

After Obama threatens military action, Deputy Foreign Minister Kaim tells reporters armed forces currently 'outside Benghazi' but have 'no intention' of entering rebel stronghold'

The presence of Libyan government forces around Benghazi does not violate ceasefire rules and the army has no plans to attack the eastern rebel stronghold, a senior foreign ministry official said on Friday.


"As for the presence of the army in Libyan cities, we consider that important for the security of citizens. It does not violate the ceasefire," Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters in Tripoli.


"The ceasefire means no military operations, big or small. The other point is that armed forces are now outside Benghazi and have no intention of entering the city."


According to Kaim, Libyan government forces have conducted no military operations since announcing a ceasefire earlier on Friday.


When asked about reports of continued government operations in Misrata and other parts of the country, he said "we have had no bombardment of any kind since the ceasefire was declared."


Shortly before the press conference residents of Benghazi reported hearing gunfire and a powerful explosion.


Al Jazeera television reported that pro-Gaddafi forces were advancing quickly towards the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Friday evening, despite the ceasefire.


'No mercy on his own citizens'

Al Jazeera said its correspondent in Benghazi reported that loyalist forces were clashing with rebels in the towns of Al-Magroun and Slouq, about 50 KM (30 miles) from the city.


Earlier, President Barack Obama demanded Moammar Gaddafi halt all military attacks against civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join in military action against him.


Still, Obama also said the United States "is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya."


In a brief appearance at the White House, Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to join in a meeting of allies called to discuss next steps in Libya, where Gaddafi has launched a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his 42-year reign.


Obama's remarks came less than 24 hours after the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action to prevent the killing of civilians by Libyan forces.


There should be no doubt about Gaddafi's intentions "because he has made them clear," Obama said. "Just yesterday, speaking of the city of Benghazi, a city of roughly 700,000, he threatened 'we will have no mercy and no pity.' No mercy on his own citizens."


France, the United States, Britain and Arab states demanded on Friday that Gaddafi's forces stop their advance to Benghazi and pull out of three other cities -- Misrata, Zawiyah and Ajdabiya.


In a statement issued on their behalf by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office, they also demanded that the Libyan regime reconnect power and water to Libyan towns where they have been cut.


AP contributed to the report



פרסום ראשון: 03.18.11, 23:38
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