Net tightens as Kadhafi arrest sought, Russia issues rebuke

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Pressure piled on Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi Tuesday as a top prosecutor sought his arrest for crimes against humanity, NATO jets pounded Tripoli, his truce offer was snubbed and he was rebuked by Moscow.

The air strikes by NATO set fire to a security services building and the headquarters of Libya's anti-corruption agency, both near Kadhafi's compound in the Libyan capital.

Parts of Tripoli have been targeted almost daily by NATO-led strikes launched on March 19 after a UN resolution called for the protection of civilians from Kadhafi's regime.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he held talks Tuesday with Kadhafi's envoys and had told Tripoli to obey the terms of UN resolutions on Libya.

"We raised the issues that directly come out of our principal position aimed first and foremost at urgently ending bloodletting in Libya," Lavrov said in televised remarks.

"We raised an issue about the need for the Libyan leadership to explicitly embrace and begin the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions in full."

UN Resolution 1970, passed on February 26, demands that the Libyan authorities end all violence and take steps "to fulfil the legitimate demands of the population."

It also urges them to "act with the utmost restraint, respect human rights and international humanitarian law ... and ensure the safe passage of humanitarian and medical supplies, and humanitarian agencies and workers, into the country."

Resolution 1973, passed on March 17, called for "the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians," while imposing a no-fly zone on Libya.

Russia abstained from the vote on the second resolution, allowing it to pass, but now however argues that the current NATO campaign breaches the UN mandate.

Britain, one of the main powers enforcing the no-fly zone, confirmed attacks in Tripoli overnight involving Tomahawk missiles and Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft which it said struck intelligence agency buildings and a military training base.

An AFP correspondent brought to the area with other journalists by Libyan authorities said two buildings on Al-Jumhuriya Avenue, close to Kadhafi's residence, were on fire early Tuesday, with firefighters battling to douse the flames.

Regime officials identified the targets as a security services building and the headquarters of Libya's anti-corruption agency.

A British defence ministry statement issued in London Tuesday said the facilities destroyed "lay at the heart of the apparatus used by the regime to brutalise the civilian population."

"One of the intelligence facilities which was hit is known to play a significant role in the collection of information by Colonel Kadhafi's secret police, while the other was a headquarters for the External Security Organisation, commanded by Abdullah Senussi," it said.

Senussi, Libya's intelligence chief, Kadhafi and the strongman's son Seif al-Islam have been accused by International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of committing crimes against humanity in supressing anti-regime protests which erupted on February 15.

Moreno-Ocampo appealed on Monday to the court to issue warrants against the three, saying there was evidence "that Moamer Kadhafi personally ordered attacks on innocent Libyan civilians."

A panel of ICC judges will now decide whether to accept or reject the prosecutor's application.

Moreno-Ocampo said thousands of people had been killed and around 750,000 people forced to flee since Kadhafi ordered his forces to crush the protests against his four-decade autocratic rule.

The rebels hailed the move by the ICC but said that Kadhafi ought to be tried in Libya first.

"The National Transitional Council welcomes the decision of chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to request an arrest warrant," the rebel administration's vice president, Abdel Hafez Ghoga, said.

"We would like him to be tried in Libya first before being put on trial in an international court," he added.

The Libyan regime however claimed the ICC prosecutor was acting on "incoherent" information.

"Unfortunately, the ICC was from the start of the Libyan crisis dependent on media reports to evaluate the situation in Libya. As a result, the ICC has usually reached incoherent conclusions," government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said in a statement.

Kadhafi's prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi Sunday offered a truce to UN special envoy, Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib, in return for an immediate NATO ceasefire.

Mahmudi said after meeting Khatib that Libya wants "an immediate ceasefire to coincide with a stop to the NATO bombardment and the acceptance of international observers," the official Libyan news agency JANA reported.

There has been no immediate response from NATO nor the NTC but previous truce offers by the regime have been rejected by the rebels, who say they won't lay down their arms until Kadhafi's regime stops attacking civilians.


© 2011 AFP

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