Leaders say 'unthinkable' for Kadhafi to stay
The leaders of Britain, France and the United States said a Libyan future including Moamer Kadhafi is "unthinkable", as Russia charged Friday that NATO was exceeding its UN mandate in Libya.
On the ground, Libyan rebels fired off barrages of rockets from the edge of Ajdabiya as they advanced towards the key eastern oil refinery town of Brega, while Kadhafi's forces were pounded by NATO air strikes in Libya's west.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama penned a joint article dismissing a Libyan future with Kadhafi as "unthinkable" and saying his staying on would represent an "unconscionable betrayal" by the rest of the world.
"It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government," said the article, which appeared Friday in the London Times, The Washington Post and French daily Le Figaro.
France's defence minister Gerard Longuet said in Paris that the US, Britain and France are thinking beyond UN resolution 1973, which authorises action to protect Libyan civilians, and now seek regime change.
He admitted on LCI television the statement by the three leaders went beyond the terms of the current UN mandate.
"But I think that when three great powers say the same thing, it's important for the United Nations, and perhaps one day the Security Council will make another resolution," he added.
On Thursday, differences between world powers over how to deal with the Libyan crisis began to widen when the BRICS group -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- urged that "the use of force should be avoided."
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev went further, arguing that Resolution 1973 did not authorise military action of the kind being carried out in Libya by attack jets from NATO and some Arab countries.
Longuet brushed aside this widening divide in the international community, arguing that Russia, China and Brazil "will naturally drag their feet.
"But which of the great countries can accept that that a head of state can resolve his problems in training cannon fire on his own population? No great power can accept that," he argued.
"I'd like to see, alongside military action, a political opening so that Libyans can come together to imagine for themselves a future without Kadhafi."
In Berlin, Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called for an urgent move towards a political settlement to the Libya conflict.
"Today, we can see actions that in a number of cases go beyond the mandate of the UN Security Council," he told a news conference after talks with NATO foreign ministers.
"We believe it is important to urgently transfer things into the political course and proceed with a political and diplomatic settlement," he said.
"We should have an immediate ceasefire and bring the warring parties to the negotiating table so they can agree on the structure of their own country."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen denied that the air strikes in Libya were beyond the scope of the UN resolution.
"I have to stress that in the conduct of that operation, we do not go beyond the text or the spirit of UN Security Council Resolution 1973," Rasmussen told a news conference.
"On the contrary, we are implementing the Security Council resolution in strict conformity with both the letter and the spirit of that resolution."
Italy insisted Friday that its fighter jets would not take part in bombardments in Libya, saying that the country was doing enough to support the UN resolution to protect civilian lives.
The European Union and NATO meanwhile deepened their coordination for a potential EU military mission to deliver urgent humanitarian aid to Libya's shell-shocked city of Misrata, diplomats said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with NATO foreign ministers in Berlin to discuss ties between the two organisations and the situation in Libya.
Any EU mission would have to be coordinated with NATO since the 28-nation military alliance has deployed several warships and jets in the Mediterranean to enforce an arms embargo and a no-fly zone on Libya.
Misrata, which has been besieged by Kadhafi's forces for weeks, came under heavy attack Thursday by Kadhafi's forces, who fired dozens of Grad missiles and tank shells that killed at least 13 people and wounded 50, a rebel spokesman said.
Libyan rebels Friday fired off barrages of rockets on the western edge of the key crossroads town of Ajdabiya, on the front line between the rebel-held east and the mainly government-held west, an AFP reporter said.
A Libyan rebel convoy fitted with big guns and rocket launchers drove westwards past Ajdabiya to see if pro-regime forces had been rolled back by NATO warplanes the previous day.
The rebel convoy of pick-up trucks had nosed cautiously west, past a point that late Thursday was the scene of a brief exchange of rocket and mortar fire with troops loyal to Kadhafi.
They soon afterwards sent off volleys of rockets but received no return fire, leaving the whereabouts of Moamer Kadhafi's forces unknown.
NATO warplanes were flying high above and explosions could be heard in the distance but it was unclear whether they were bombings.
Witnesses reported NATO air strikes on pro-Kadhafi armour in the Zintan region of western Libya, amid clashes with rebels who hold several areas.
"There were air strikes on tanks of Kadhafi loyalists a dozen or so kilometres (seven miles) from Zintan," a town of 40,000 people around 150 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, one witness told AFP.
He added that warplanes had been overflying the area all day.
© 2011 AFP