Britain says 'time running out' for defiant Kadhafi

23rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Time is running out for Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday after the strongman said he had his "back to the wall" but vowed to battle "to the beyond."

Libya's rebel forces called on foreign allies to urgently provide them with weapons as NATO insisted there would be no let-up in its air war.

"Time is on our side, time is not on the side of Colonel Kadhafi who's losing his leading military commanders," Cameron told reporters in Prague.

"The sands of time are running out for him, and so we need to be patient and persistent," he added.

International Criminal Court judges will on Monday decide whether to issue an arrest warrant for Kadhafi for crimes against humanity, the court said on its website.

The ICC prosecution has requested three arrest warrants for Kadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, the court said.

Cameron insisted this week that Britain can maintain the current level of operations in Libya -- a campaign the defence ministry on London said will cost around £260 million -- despite concerns raised by senior military figures.

Britain deployed Apache attack helicopters over Libya this month in an attempt to break the stalemate in the fight between rebels and Kadhafi's forces.

"We will resist and the battle will continue to the beyond, until you're wiped out. But we will not be finished," Kadhafi said in an audio message on Libyan television late on Wednesday.

"There's no longer any agreement after you killed our children and our grandchildren... We have our backs to the wall. You (the West) can move back," Kadhafi said in homage to his comrade Khuwildi Hemidi, several members of whose family were killed on Monday in reported NATO raids on his residence.

NATO has acknowledged its warplanes early on Monday hit Sorman west of Tripoli but insisted that the target was military, a precision air strike against a "high-level" command and control node.

Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said 15 people, including three children, were killed in the attack, which he called a "cowardly terrorist act which cannot be justified."

Rebel colonel Ahmed Omar Bani on Thursday made a plea for foreign allies to provide the arms, training and communications systems needed to defeat Kadhafi.

"It is so urgent" he said, "we will fight, just support us, just give us the equipment," he said.

Much of the rebels' arsenal is comprised of Soviet-era tanks and artillery, which is up to 50 years old.

NATO on Wednesday pledged to carry on bombing military targets in Libya, saying more civilians would die if operations were not maintained under a UN mandate to protect Libyans from the exactions of Kadhafi's regime.

"NATO will continue this mission because if we stop, countless more civilians could lose their lives," NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a video statement on the alliance's website.

He did not directly refer to Italy, whose Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday called for "an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities" in Libya.

"We have seen the effects of the crisis and therefore also of NATO action not only in eastern and southwestern regions but also in Tripoli," Frattini told a parliamentary committee in Rome.

"I believe an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities is required in order to create effective humanitarian corridors," while negotiations should also continue on a more formal ceasefire and peace talks, he said.

The commander of the NATO operation, Canada's Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, said a ceasefire risked becoming "just an opportunity for both sides to reload and to engage in further violence down the road."

"We must continue to stay engaged to prevent that rearming," Bouchard said.

Frattini's comments had drawn a swift rebuff from NATO ally France which has played a leading role in the military intervention in Libya.

"The coalition and the countries that met as the Abu Dhabi contact group two weeks ago were unanimous on the strategy -- we must intensify the pressure on Kadhafi," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.

The rebels were also dismissive of the Italian ceasefire proposal.

"Even if NATO halts operations, we will fight tooth and nail, we will fight until our country is freed, we don't fear (a NATO cessation)," rebel spokesman Mahmud Shamam said.

In its latest operational update on Thursday, NATO said its warplanes struck, among other targets, a radar facility and a command and control node in the Tripoli area and two radar towers near the rebel-held city of Misrata.

© 2011 AFP

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