France promises sea corridor to besieged Libyan city Misrata

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France pledged Wednesday to open a sea corridor to let Libyan rebels ship aid and supplies to the besieged Mediterranean city of Misrata.

"We are going to ensure that... aid comes from (the rebel stronghold) Benghazi and that at no moment (Libyan leader Moamer) Kadhafi's military forces will be able to stop this," he told France Inter radio.

Rebel forces have accused NATO-led aircraft of doing nothing while loyalist forces kept up their 40-day long artillery bombardment of civilians in the western city.

"Previously, the interpretation of the embargo meant that no boats could supply any towns," Longuet said.

"Today, we have reopened (marine) traffic at Tobruk and Benghazi, and so boats from Benghazi will be able... to supply Misrata, because the coalition will prevent any action by the Kadhafi navy," he said.

NATO, clearly stung by the rebels' accusations, on Wednesday defended its operations.

"Misrata is our number one priority," NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero told AFP, adding that alliance warplanes hit Kadhafi's military assets around Libya's third largest city on Monday.

"We have a clear mandate and we will do everything to protect the civilians of Misrata," Romero said, referring to the UN Security Council resolution permitting "all necessary measures" to defend Libya's population.

© 2011 AFP

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