Arab League chief Amr Moussa
Photo: AP
Rebels celebrate in Benghazi
Photo: AP

Libyan army orders ceasefire

Announcement comes after 24 hours of airstrikes by Western forces, which Arab League chief says has killed innocent people. 'We wanted protection of civilians, not bombardment of more civilians,' he says

The Libyan armed forces have issued a command to all units to observe an immediate ceasefire, a Libyan army spokesman told a news conference on Sunday.


The announcement came after some 24 hours of air bombardment from American, French and British forces aiming to implement a UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect Libyan civilians from government troops.


"The Libyan armed forces ... have issued a command to all military units to safeguard an immediate ceasefire from 9 pm this evening," a Libyan army spokesman said.


Muammar Gaddafi's appeal for Arab solidarity in the face of foreign air strikes fell on deaf ears across the Middle East on Sunday, but support for his opponents was mixed with deep suspicion of Western motives.


The head of the Arab League, which supported Libyan no-fly zone, said his organization had not endorsed attacks on ordinary Libyans.


"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," Amr Moussa said, announcing an emergency Arab League meeting to discuss Libya.


Moussa's comments followed a demand by Russia to stop the "indiscriminate" use of force it said was killing civilians in Libya.


The air strikes exceed the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution, which approved a no-fly zone and authorized all necessary measures to protect civilians, Russia Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.


Russia was among five countries that abstained from voting on the resolution approving military action.


A Libyan government official said 64 people died in the Western air strikes. "In this connection, we are calling on the respective states to halt the indiscriminate use of force," Lukashevich said.


'Arab people want to get rid of leaders'

Western forces have unleashed their biggest military attack in the Arab world since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, targeting Gaddafi's air defenses and armored vehicles near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the east of the country.


A few hours after the first missiles struck, Gaddafi called on "citizens of the Arab and Islamic nations" and other developing countries to "stand by the heroic Libyan people to confront this aggression".


But Arabs from North Africa to the Gulf, many demanding political rights for the first time, dismissed the appeal from a leader whose four decades of authoritarian and capricious rule have exhausted any reserves of sympathy.


"It is now clear and understandable that Arab people want to get rid of their leaders, so leaders should simply leave and not fight their people and force foreign nations to interfere," said Mohamed Abdel Motaleb, a bank employee in Cairo, where mass protests toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak last month.


"I am very much against foreign troops fighting in Libya, but Arab leaders should not let that happen through their stubbornness and refusal to quit power".


'Gaddafi's tanks in Misrata center'

Meanwhile forces loyal to Gaddafi drove tanks into the center of rebel-held Misrata on Sunday, residents said, two days after US President Barack Obama demanded they pull back from the city.


Local people in Misrata, the only big rebel stronghold left in the west of Libya, said Western air strikes overnight hit pro-Gaddafi forces at their base south of the city, but that did not halt their attacks.


"There is fighting between the rebels and the Gaddafi forces. Their tanks are in the center of Misrata," Abdelbasset, a spokesman for the rebels, said by telephone from the city. "There are so many casualties that we cannot count them."


"He (Gaddafi) is using a scorched earth strategy. Burning and destroying everything in his way," said Abdelbasset.


It was impossible to verify accounts from Misrata because the Libyan authorities have prevented journalists from reaching the city. There was no immediate comment from Libyan officials.


Gaddafi's forces – including units of the 32nd brigade commanded by his son Khamis – have been laying siege to Misrata for days, residents have said, but until Sunday rebel fighters had kept them confined to the city's outskirts.



פרסום ראשון: 03.20.11, 18:36
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