Tripoli slams German minister's Benghazi visit
Libya on Tuesday slammed as "irresponsible" a visit to the rebel capital Benghazi by Germany's foreign minister, as the US pressed Africa to take tougher action against Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
Rebels meanwhile said they suffered heavy losses in eastern Libya after being "tricked" by Khadafi's forces, amid a resurgence of fighting in the north African country after weeks of stalemate.
Libya's foreign ministry said Monday's visit by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Benghazi was a "violation" of Tripoli's sovereignty.
In a statement, the ministry condemned the trip as "irresponsible" and said it "does not help efforts by regional and international organisations to find a peaceful solution to what is happening in Libya."
The visit, it added, was "a flagrant violation of national sovereignty, an interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation and member of the United Nations, and is contrary to international norms and convention."
During his visit to Benghazi, eastern seat of the Libyan rebellion, Westerwelle said Kadhafi "had lost all legitimacy".
He announced after meeting rebel leaders that Berlin recognises their National Transitional Council (NTC) as the "legitimate representative" of the Libyan people.
In doing so, Germany became the 13th nation to recognise the NTC after Australia, Britain, France, Gambia, Italy, Jordan, Malta, Qatar, Senegal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
On the battlefield however, the insurgents came under attack on numerous fronts by Kadhafi loyalists, suffering heavy losses.
On the eastern frontline between the rebel-held transport hub Ajdabiya and the oil town of Brega, which is in the hands of Kadhafi's soldiers, a firefight on Monday left 21 rebel combatants dead, their commander told AFP.
"Our men were tricked. Kadhafi's soldiers pretended to surrender, coming with a white flag, and then they fired on us," Mussa al-Mograbi said.
About 20 rebels were wounded and transferred to hospital in Ajdabiya, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Benghazi, the de facto capital of rebels who have been fighting to overthrow Kadhafi since mid-February, he said.
Mograbi added that four of his men were killed and 30 wounded in a skirmish the previous day.
Battles were also being fought in the western town of Zintan, the Berber mountains southwest of Tripoli, in nearby Yafran, and at Dafnia near Misrata, Libya's third city, rebel sources told AFP.
An AFP correspondent said Kadhafi's forces pounded the outskirts of Zintan on Sunday, killing at least seven rebels and wounding 49.
In Addis Ababa, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday pressed all African states to demand Kadhafi step down and take tougher action against his regime.
Seeking to wrest support from a leader who has helped them financially, Clinton also urged African countries toexpel Kadhafi's diplomats and increase their support for the opposition, saying their words and actions can help bring peace to Libya.
"I urge all African states to call for a genuine ceasefire and to call for Kadhafi to step aside," the first US chief diplomat to speak to the African Union said during a visit to the body's headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Senegal and Gambia are the only African states to have recognised the NTC as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.
Kadhafi remains adamant he will not step down, according to the head of the World Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who said that during a game of chess in Tripoli on Sunday the strongman insisted he had no position of power to relinquish.
"I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up," Ilyumzhinov quoted Kadhafi as telling him.
In Belgrade, one of NATO's top commanders said Tuesday the alliance has sufficient means to conduct its Libya campaign but warned that the issue of resources "will become critical" if the conflict dragged on.
"At this stage the forces engaged do have the means necessary to conduct the operations. If additional sources are needed this of course will need a political decision," Supreme Allied Commander of Transformations, French General Stephane Abrial said.
"If the operation was to last longer, of course the resource issue will become critical," he warned at a NATO meeting in Belgrade.
Last week US Defence Secretary Robert Gates issued a stinging rebuke to NATO allies as only eight of the 28 members are conducting air strikes against Kadhafi's regime.
© 2011 AFP