Red Cross braces for the worst in Libya conflict

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The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that he was braced for an intensification of the conflict in Libya, suggesting it amounted to a civil war.

"We always have to prepare for the worst. In this specific case, we have to prepare for a further intensification of the fighting," said Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC president.

"It will certainly mean much more wounded arriving in the hospitals," he added, although he would not give forecasts or estimates that the agency is working with.

He also pointed out that refugee outflows from Libya or the numbers of people displaced from their homes could increase sharply if fighting were to intensify.

The numbers of wounded are already increasing rapidly, he said.

An ICRC team in Ajdabiya in the east of the country reported 55 wounded people who were brought into the hospital this week.

The ICRC also learnt from sources that 40 patients were treated at a medical facility in Misrata and that 22 bodies were taken there.

For Kellenberger, the situation now qualifies as a civil war.

"My understanding now is that we have now a non-international armed conflict and I have no problem with the term civil war," he said.

Kellenberger also deplored that the ICRC has not been granted access to areas controlled by Moamer Kadhafi's regime. It now has access only to rebel-held eastern Libya.

"I am very disappointed I have to say this... as with all humanitarian organisations, we still have no access to areas controlled by Tripoli. We have made efforts to get access, we have not been successful so far," he added.

Kellenberger revealed that he has "spoken to someone pretty close to the power" to seek access but to no avail.

"I have been told that everything is under control that all hospitals are working perfectly and there is no need for external international assistance. And we are worried, we would like to assess ourselves what is the situation," he added.

"There is so many conflicting news," Kellenberger pointed out, adding, "that's why it is so important that we are around to assess the situation ourselves."

© 2011 AFP

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