Khamis, 31 Mac 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

About 1,000 believed killed in Libya violence - UK

Posted: 31 Mar 2011 08:00 AM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - About 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the British government said in a human rights report published on Thursday.

"Whilst there has been no official death toll, several sources report that approximately 1,000 people have already been killed and many more have been injured during the recent violence," the report from Britain's Foreign Office said.

The Foreign Office also said it was "appalled by widespread reports of other serious human rights violations, including the use of torture and extra-judicial executions, illegal arrests and detentions (including incommunicado detention), denial of medical assistance and humanitarian aid."

The quarterly update on human rights in Libya, covering the period since an uprising began against Gaddafi's rule, noted "credible and consistent reports of...brutality with innocent civilians reported killed by indiscriminate shelling and air strikes by pro-Gaddafi forces in towns and cities in Libya where anti-government protests were taking place".

Such reports led an international coalition, including Britain, to set up a no-fly zone over Libya and to launch military strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces to prevent attacks on civilians. Allied forces say they have now destroyed the Libyan air force.

Coalition officials say they are doing their best to avoid civilian casualties.

But the Vatican's top official in the Libyan capital, quoting what he called reliable sources in close contact with residents, told Reuters on Thursday at least 40 civilians have been killed in air strikes by Western forces on Tripoli.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Gaddafi not close to breaking point - U.S.

Posted: 31 Mar 2011 08:00 AM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is not close to a military breaking point even though coalition strikes have seriously degraded his fighting power, the top U.S. military officer told Congress on Thursday.

"We have actually fairly seriously degraded his military capabilities. ... We've attrited his overall forces at about the 20- to 25-percent level," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers.

A poster of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi is seen outside the door of the U.N. office in Tripoli March 18, 2011. . (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/Files)

"That does not mean he's about to break from a military standpoint, because that's not the case."

Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared before lawmakers almost two weeks after Western nations launched a military campaign aimed at protecting civilians in Libya from Gaddafi's loyalist forces.

Libyan rebels fought on Thursday for control of the eastern Libya oil town of Brega, a day after Gaddafi troops drove them back under a hail of rocket fire.

While President Barack Obama says Gaddafi must go, he and other U.S. officials have insisted the current military action authorized by the United Nations only allows for protection of civilians and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya.

"Deposing the (Gaddafi) regime, as welcome as that eventuality would be, is not part of the military mission," Gates said.

"In my view, the removal of Colonel (Gaddafi) will likely be achieved over time through political and economic measures and by his own people."

The comments came a day after revelations that Obama signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Gaddafi and media reports that clandestine operatives were gathering intelligence for air strikes.

Gates declined comment on any CIA role in Libya.

"I can't speak to any CIA activities but I will tell you that the president has been quite clear that in terms of the United States military there will be no boots on the ground," Gates said.

Gates and Mullen faced sharp questions from lawmakers who complained that Congress was not properly consulted before Obama forged ahead with military action in Libya.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Susan Cornwell; writing by Missy Ryan; editing by Vicki Allen)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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