Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy state their commitment to regime change

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Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have stated their determination to keep bombing Libya until Muammar Gaddafi steps down or is deposed.

The leaders of the United States, Britain and France said, in a jointly written article, it would be an "unconscionable betrayal" of the populations of rebel towns to cease operations with Colonel Gaddafi still in place. It was "unthinkable" that a leader who has "tried to massacre his own people" could be allowed to continue in government, they said.

"So long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds," said the article published in The Washington Post, Le Figaro and The Times.

The statement came as Nato's foreign ministers struggled to resolve deep differences over the Libyan campaign. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's Secretary General, ended the first day of a two-day summit in Berlin with a plea for more aircraft to attack Colonel Gaddafi's ground forces. But there was no commitment to provide more planes and the issue of arming rebel troops was largely circumvented.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refused to comment directly on Italian demands for the West to arm the rebels. Instead, she called for the world to "deepen our engagement with and increase our support for" the Libyan opposition. Asked about arming the rebels, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said his country was not "in this frame of mind" and insisted that there could only be a political solution to the Libyan problem.

The emphasis was more on the alliance's air campaign. "To avoid civilian casualties we need very sophisticated equipment, so we need a few more precision-fighter ground-attack aircraft for air-to-ground missions," Mr Rasmussen said. "I don't have specific pledges or promises from this meeting, but I heard indications that gave me hope."

Nato's progress in Libya has been slowed because of the rebels' inability to overcome Colonel Gaddafi's better-organised forces, which have concealed themselves in populated areas to avoid Western air strikes. To resolve the impasse, Britain and France have led calls for more strikes by their Nato allies, especially the US.

But Italy and Spain let it be known that they would not take part in air strikes yesterday and the US, despite Mr Obama's support for operations to continue while Colonel Gaddafi remains in power, has so far insisted that it sees no need to change what it describes as its "supporting role" in the campaign – it has flown about a third of the missions. Germany disappointed its allies by refusing to become involved from the outset.

Tunisia's Ben Ali faces multiple charges

Tunisian authorities have prepared 18 legal cases against ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, including voluntary manslaughter and drug trafficking.

The revelation was made by Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi in an interview on state television.

Other charges include conspiring against the state and drug use. A total of 44 legal cases have been prepared by his ministry against Mr Ben Ali, his family and his inner circle. Mr Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after he was toppled in January after 23 years in power. Several members of his family and some of his closest allies were detained shortly afterwards. The caretaker authorities, trying to assert authority and gain legitimacy, are now attacking the vestiges of his long rule. Reuters

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