Libya rebels say Nato must stop Misrata 'massacre'

Libyan rebels begged for more Nato air strikes today, saying they faced a massacre from government artillery barrages on the besieged city of Misrata, but Western allies squabbled over the air campaign.



Rebels said a hail of Grad rockets fired by besieging forces into a residential district of Misrata, Libya's third largest city, had killed 23 civilians, mostly women and children.



Aid organisations warn of a humanitarian disaster in Misrata, the lone rebel bastion in western Libya, where hundreds of civilians are said to have died in a six-week siege.



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern at a Nato meeting in Berlin over "atrocities" in Misrata but gave no hint Washington was prepared to re-engage in air strikes.



Reflecting concern over strains in the alliance, Clinton called for Nato to maintain "resolve and unity" against Muammar Gaddafi, saying he was trying to test Western resolve.



Several Nato members rebuffed calls from France and Britain to contribute more to the air attacks, conducted under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians and US officials said allied commanders were not requesting greater resources.



"A massacre...will take place here if Nato does not intervene strongly," a rebel spokesman in Misrata told Reuters by phone. Reports of casualties are hard to verify independently because journalists cannot reach the area.



Al Jazeera television showed hundreds of residents demonstrating after the dawn attack. "The blood of martyrs will not be in vain," they chanted, waving the rebel flag.







Five so-called BRICS emerging powers - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - expressed misgivings about Nato air strikes after talks in China and urged an end to the two-month civil war.



Their criticism contrasted with the first joint call for Gaddafi's overthrow from a group of Middle Eastern and Western countries meeting in Qatar yesterday.



In its strongest language yet, the international "contact group" on Libya demanded that Gaddafi leave power and voiced support for the rebels.



Some military analysts believe US specialist ground attack aircraft could tip the balance in Libya, allowing precision strikes on Gaddafi's armour with less risk of hitting civilians. But Washington has taken a back seat after handing command to Nato on March 31.



French Defence Minister Minister Gerard Longuet said this week Gaddafi's attacks would not be stopped without US participation in strikes on his tanks and artillery. A French official cited Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden among other allies who could do more.



But Spain said it had no plan to join the seven Nato states that have conducted ground strikes while Italy, Libya's former colonial power, expressed reluctance to launch attacks.



Amid a flurry of international diplomacy over Libya, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Arab League head Amr Moussa and officials from the African Union and Organisation of the Islamic Conference discussed the war at a meeting in Cairo today.



A few dozen pro and anti-Gaddafi protesters demonstrated outside the meeting at Arab League headquarters.



Ban expressed grave concern over the escalation of violence in Libya and called for a ceasefire and the relief of besieged cities. The longer fighting went on, the more difficult a political solution would be, he said.



Clinton said in Berlin there could be no viable political transition until Gaddafi left power.







Britain and France are leading air strikes against Gaddafi's forces, but have grown frustrated with the lack of support from their allies. Nato says it is still short of about 10 aircraft a day for strikes.



Nato members are also divided over meeting a rebel request for weapons. Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said this was not allowed under the UN resolution authorising military action but other nations suggested it could be possible.



The rebels said they were in talks with "friendly" countries to obtain arms: "I don't think there will be a problem getting weapons," national council spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told reporters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.



Juppe said in Berlin that France was not currently in favour of arming the rebels and the Nato campaign would not be enough to topple Gaddafi. A political solution was essential, he said.



Qatar, a leading Arab supporter of the uprising, hinted yesterday that it might arm the rebels.



Britain says it will supply them with 1,000 sets of body armour from surplus supplies on top of 100 satellite phones already sent.



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£120 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: The Humanities Department of this ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Music Teacher

£120 - £180 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Newham Position: Music Start dat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Sutton Position: Science teacher S...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee