ICC courts Kadhafi aides, Libya blasts warrant

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The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Tuesday urged Moamer Kadhafi's aides to help arrest him, as the Libyan leader lashed out at an ICC warrant against him for crimes against humanity.

On the ground, rebel fighters captured an arms depot from Kadhafi forces in the desert near their mountain enclave southwest of Tripoli in a boost for their resupply, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Human rights bodies and the West, meanwhile, hailed the ICC's move against Kadhafi on Monday that came on the 100th day of a NATO bombing campaign.

Libya rejected the warrants issued for Kadhafi, 69, his son Seif al-Islam, 39, and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, for atrocities committed in a bloody uprising that began mid-February.

The ruling is a "cover for NATO which is still trying to assassinate Kadhafi," said Justice Minister Mohammed al-Gamudi.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said the ICC "functions as a European foreign policy vehicle.

"It is a political court which serves its European paymasters," he said, adding: "Our own courts will deal with any human rights abuses and other crimes committed in the course of conflict in Libya."

But ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Libya's regime could "be part of the solution" by implementing the arrest warrant.

"Kadhafi's inner circle is the first option. They can complement the arrest warrants," he said at a press conference in The Hague.

"They can be part of the problem and be prosecuted, or they can be part of the solution, working together with the other Libyans to stop the crimes," Moreno-Ocampo said.

In the latest fighting around the southwestern mountains, the rebels on Tuesday captured a network of bunkers in the desert around 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the hilltown of Zintan, the AFP correspondent said.

The capture of rockets, machine guns and other munitions was a major boost for rebel hopes of driving on to Tripoli from the frontline on the other side of the Nafusa Mountains, which now lies just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the capital.

Hundreds of rebel fighters, accompanied by local civilians, combed through the warren of caches, some of which had been blown up in air strikes but with others remaining intact.

The rebel fighters overcame heavy multiple rocket fire from loyalist troops to seize their booty. Rebel commanders said they also ambushed a government convoy, destroying three vehicles.

NATO said warplanes under its command hit three tanks and six armoured personnel carriers in the Zintan area on Monday.

The chief of NATO operation in Libya, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, said on Tuesday that the mission had made "significant" progress but dismissed any scaling back due to rebel advances on the ground.

Germany, meanwhile, said it has offered to supply NATO with bomb components for use in the stretched military alliance's operation.

"The German defence ministry has received a request of the relevant NATO agency ... Germany has expressed its general willingness to make available precision weaponry components," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

Moreno-Ocampo sought the three arrest warrants as thousands died in fighting and an estimated 650,000 people fled the country with Kadhafi clinging to power despite NATO strikes easing the siege of key rebel cities.

Gamudi noted that his country was not a signatory to the ICC's founding Rome Statute, and "does not accept the jurisdiction of the court."

But the head of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told a news conference in the rebel capital of Benghazi that "justice has been done."

In The Hague, rebel justice minister Mohammed al-Allagy told reporters: "We are going to arrest them ... We will decide afterwards where to prosecute them."

Bulgaria and Croatia on Tuesday joined a list of countries which have recognised the NTC as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people, their foreign ministries said in a joint statement.

"The Kadhafi era is over and he has to step down immediately," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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