Tag Archive: Paris


Palestine wins UNESCO seat

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/palestine-wins-unesco-seat-143002573.html

 

Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians’ bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.

 

The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid, while 107 countries–including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia–voted in favor. Fourteen nations–including the United Kingdom and Italy–abstained.

Washington, which called the UNESCO vote “premature” Monday, has threatened to cut off funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization’s budget.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the UNESCO vote, and warned it would set back peace process.

“This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement,” the Israeli ministry said in a statement.  “This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations.”

Palestine’s successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.

Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet’s efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.

Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority–a move that if carried out would presumably give Israel the burden of administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

Libya Leader Wants NATO Presence Through 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/world/middleeast/libya-leader-wants-nato-presence-through-2011.html

Libya’s interim leader said on Wednesday that NATO should extend its air patrols over the country through the end of 2011 despite the death and burial of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and the formal declaration that the country’s violent revolution was over.       The assertion by the interim leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the Transitional National Council, appeared to be a tacit admission that armed remnants of Colonel Qaddafi’s defeated disciples could possibly regroup and cause new trouble for Libya in the months ahead.

Mr. Jalil spoke as NATO was preparing within days to formally end its operations in Libya, which have been credited with helping anti-Qaddafi fighters topple Colonel Qaddafi’s regime in an eight-month conflict that was the most violent of the Arab Spring uprisings.

NATO warplanes also helped flush out Colonel Qaddafi and his subordinates from their final hideaway last Thursday in his hometown, Surt, where he and dozens, if not hundreds, of loyalists were killed, ending his 42-year tenure as one of the Arab world’s most ruthless dictators.

Mr. Abdel-Jalil formally declared the conflict over on Sunday, and Colonel Qaddafi, along with one of his sons and former defense minister, were buried in a secret location on Tuesday.

“We have asked NATO to stay until the end of the year to protect citizens from Qaddafi loyalists,” Mr. Jalil said at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, where he was attending a meeting of other countries that have assisted the anti-Qaddafi forces in the conflict.

Asserting that he was also concerned about efforts by remaining supporters of Colonel Qaddafi to take refuge abroad, Mr. Abdel-Jalil said: “We seek technical support for training for our forces on the ground. We hope NATO can sustain its operations over Libya, but if they do not we are still thankful.”

NATO ministers last week tentatively set Oct. 31 as the end of their military operations in Libya, which were conducted under the auspices of a Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians from reprisals by Colonel Qaddafi’s military during the conflict.

The NATO ministers had been scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Brussels to finalize the termination date but abruptly postponed that meeting to Friday, presumably to weigh Mr. Abdel-Jalil’s request for an extension.

Qatar, one of the first Arab countries to recognize the coalition of anti-Qaddafi rebels that toppled Colonel Qaddafi’s regime, disclosed for the first time on Wednesday that it had deployed hundreds of soldiers on the ground in Libya to help them.

The disclosure came in an interview conducted by Agence France-Presse with Qatar’s military chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, at the Doha meeting. He also was quoted as saying that the Qataris had been “running the training and communication operations” of the anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya.

Previously, Qatar had said only that it was providing some air support, water, weapons and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of other aid to the rebels battling Colonel Qaddafi’s military.

There were unconfirmed reports from Libya that Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a son of Colonel Qaddafi who was once considered his heir apparent and is still on the run, was seeking to turn himself in at an undisclosed location. But a person close to the Qaddafi family said that he had no knowledge of Seif al Islam’s whereabouts and that his surrender at this time was extremely unlikely. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to prevent harassment from Qaddafi opponents.

Reporting was contributed by Adam Nossiter and David D. Kirkpatrick in Tripoli, Libya.

Islamists claim win in Tunisia’s Arab Spring vote

http://news.yahoo.com/tunisia-counts-votes-first-arab-spring-election-011055438.html

TUNIS (Reuters) – Moderate Islamists claimed victory on Monday in Tunisia’s first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the “Arab Spring.”

Official results have not been announced, but the Ennahda party said its workers had tallied the results posted at polling stations after Sunday’s vote, the first since the uprisings which began in Tunisia and spread through the region.

“The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside party headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital.

As he spoke, a crowd of more than 300 in the street shouted “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great!” Other people started singing the Tunisian national anthem.

Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see the resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, party officials said they were prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.

“We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance … We reassure the investors and international economic partners,” Jlazzi said.

Sunday’s vote was for an assembly which will sit for one year to draft a new constitution. It will also appoint a new interim president and government to run the country until fresh elections late next year or early in 2013.

The voting system has built-in checks and balances which make it nearly impossible for any one party to have a majority, compelling Ennahda to seek alliances with secularist parties, which will dilute its influence.

“This is an historic moment,” said Zeinab Omri, a young woman in a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, who was outside the Ennahda headquarters when party officials claimed victory.

“No one can doubt this result. This result shows very clearly that the Tunisian people is a people attached to its Islamic identity,” she said.

REVOLUTION INSPIRED UPRISINGS

Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” when Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable seller in a provincial town, set fire to himself in protest at poverty and government repression.

His suicide provoked a wave of protests which, weeks later, forced autocratic president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The revolution in Tunisia, a former French colony, in turn inspired uprisings which forced out entrenched leaders in Egypt and Libya, and convulsed Yemen and Syria — re-shaping the political landscape of the Middle East.

Ennahda is led by Rachid Ghannouchi, forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police.

A softly spoken scholar, he dresses in suits and open-necked shirts while his wife and daughter wear the hijab.

Ghannouchi is at pains to stress his party will not enforce any code of morality on Tunisian society, or the millions of Western tourists who holiday on its beaches.

He models his approach on the moderate Islamism of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The party’s rise has been met with ambivalence by some people in Tunisia. The country’s strong secularist traditions go back to the first post-independence president, Habiba Bourguiba, who called the hijab an “odious rag.”

Outside the offices of the commission which organized the election, about 50 people staged a sit-in demanding an investigation into what they said were irregularities committed by Ennahda. Election officials said any problems were minor.

“I really feel a lot of fear and concern after this result,” said Meriam Othmani, a 28-year-old journalist. “Women’s rights will be eroded,” she said. “Also, you’ll see the return of dictatorship once Ennahda achieves a majority in the constituent assembly.”

Ennahda’s preferred coalition partners may reassure some opponents. Ali Larayd, a member of the party’s executive committee, said it was ready to form an alliance with the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, both secularist groups respected by Tunisia’s intelligentsia.

 

The Congress is led by Moncef Marzouki, a doctor and human rights activist who spent years in exile in France. Ettakatol is a socialist party led by Mustafa Ben Jaafar, another doctor and veteran Ben Ali opponent.

The only official results released were from polling stations abroad, because they voted early.

The election commission said that out of 18 seats in the 217-seat assembly allocated to the Tunisian diaspora, 9 went to Ennahda. Its closest rivals were Marzouki’s Congress on four seats and Ettakatol, which won three.

The highest-profile secularist challenger to Ennahda, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) conceded defeat. It had warned voters that modern, liberal values would be threatened if the Islamists won.

“The PDP respects the democratic game. The people gave their trust to those it considers worthy of that trust. We congratulate the winner and we will be in the ranks of the opposition,” a party statement sent to Reuters said.

Ennahda’s win was a remarkable turnaround for a party which just 10 months ago had to operate underground because of a government ban and which had hundreds of followers in prison.

In a slick and well-funded campaign, the party tapped into a desire among ordinary Tunisians to be able to express their faith freely after years of aggressively enforced secularism.

It also sought to show it could represent all Tunisians, including the large number who take a laissez-faire view of Islam’s strictures, drink alcohol, wear revealing clothes and rarely visit the mosque.

Secularist opponents say they believe this is just a cleverly constructed front that conceals more radical views, especially among Ennahda’s rank and file in the provinces.

The party’s final election rally last week was addressed by one of Ennahda’s candidates, a glamorous woman who does not wear a hijab.

On the fringes of the same rally, stalls sold books by Salafist authors, followers of a strict interpretation of Islam who believe women should be covered up and that the sexes should be segregated in public.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by  Tim Pearce)

Michaele Salahi, Twitterhttp://www.eonline.com/news/michaele_salahi_neal_schon_our_affair/264868

Michaele Salahi is esctatic about her Housewife turned  groupie status and claims her love affair with Journey guitarist  Neal Schon is true love.

The scandalous twosome are speaking out about their relationship and how they  came to be a couple 10 days after the rocker invited the Real Housewives of  D.C. star and her husband, Tareq Salahi, to his concert in  Virginia. After his wife disappeared with Neal, Tareq feared she was kidnapped and begged the public to be on the lookout for  his missus.

But kidnapped she was not—instead she had run off with Neal in what he’s  calling a “fairy tale”…

“It’s like a fairy tale. It is, it really is,” Neal told the Daily Beast about finally being out in the open  with Michaele. “I’m very happy, very happy after waiting for her for 15 years.  Now I want to get beyond all this media hype thatt Tareq has put out there. It’s  really quite embarrassing.”

The Bravo reality star revealed that back in the late ’90s, she had been  dating both Tareq and Neal but chose Tareq because she’d been diagnosed with  multiple sclerosis and believed she would receive better care from him.

“I chose Tareq over Neal because I thought life would be less stressful  living on a vineyard in Virginia,” she said. “Life on the road with a rock  band…well, I thought I might not have been able to keep up.”

The new pair admit that before that night at the concert, they had been texting each other on a secret  phone a friend had provided Michaele with so she could communicate with the  outside world without Tareq knowing.

Michaele knew she was going to leave her husband after Neal asked her if they  were going to keep up the back and forth forever.

“I began to see he really loved me. I had to begin to feel it completely in  my soul, ” she said.

The night of the concert, Neal says Michaele told him she loved  him.

MORE: Why did Michaele need rehab?

“What happened was…she takes off her wedding ring…right in front of  Tareq. Takes it off,” Neal explains. “And then she proceeds to come into my  dressing room where I’m sitting down. I have tennis shoes on and she’s like,  nine feet tall over me. And she looks down at me like she’s standing on stilts  and says ‘I love you, and that’s never gonna change.’ And when that  happened I said, ‘Get over here! This has taken 15 years!”

That very night, Neal tried to get her on his tour bus with him, but she went  home with Tareq instead in order to avoid humiliating him.

But just over a week later, she was ready to bail.

“I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but I realized I was hurting myself,” she said  of her decision to finally leave her husband, whom she called “controlling.”

Neal added that Tareq had ordered Michaele around, telling her when she could  and couldn’t leave the house and taking away her money, phone and car so she  couldn’t do much on her own.

And when she finally did leave, she left all her possessions behind.

“I was going crazy,” she said. “Because when you want to be with someone that  bad, you start to go crazy. He [Neal] sent someone to come get me. I got on a  plane by myself and I just went. I just walked away from everything.”

It remains to be seen whether the new couple will last—Neal also left his  partner, former Playboy Playmate Ava Fabian, who he  reportedly married in Paris two months ago, although it’s unclear if the  ceremony was legally binding.

Tareq has already filed for divorce from Michaele. Part two of our exclusive  interview with the spurned husband airs on E! News tonight at 7:00.

 

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110506/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Karin Laub, Associated Press 21 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s forces may have committed war crimes in the rebel-held city of Misrata and the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating because of regime attempts to tighten its siege and block access by sea, Amnesty International said Friday.

Libyan troops have indiscriminately fired heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs at residential areas of Libya’s third-largest city during a two-month siege, in a clear breach of international humanitarian law, the group said in a report.

“Weapons designed for the battle field and not for residential areas are being launched into residential neighborhoods, killing civilians and really just creating a situation of terror,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera.

Earlier this week, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the U.N. Security Council he would seek arrest warrants against three Libyans for crimes against humanity committed in Libya. He did not name the suspects.

Misrata is the main rebel stronghold in western Libya, a region still largely under Gadhafi’s control, while the rebels hold positions in the east of the country.

Libyan troops besieging the city of 300,000 by land recently stepped up shelling of Misrata’s port to close the remaining lifeline. Hundreds of people have been killed in Misrata since February, medics say.

On Wednesday, government forces shelled Misrata’s port area as an aid vessel docked to evacuate hundreds of stranded migrant workers. The shells killed two toddlers and their aunt and uncle, all from Niger, as they waited for evacuation in a nearby tent camp.

The humanitarian situation has deteriorated sharply in recent days because the attempted port blockade has made it even more difficult to bring in supplies, said Rovera. She said there is no electricity or running water in large parts of the city, and food supplies are dwindling.

Government officials deny wrongdoing by Libyan troops, including shelling of civilian areas. Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said Thursday that the military has decided to block ships from reaching Misrata, but would not discuss the tactics by regime loyalists, such as last week’s mining of Misrata harbor or Wednesday’s shelling.

“We will not allow those ships to bring arms to the city and then evacuate some criminals,” Kaim said. The government claimed that aid ships would be allowed to pass if they coordinate with the regime.

The fate of Misrata is of strategic importance in the battle for Libya. Unless his forces retake the city, Gadhafi cannot attempt to partition the country, perhaps his only option for remaining in power in some areas of Libya.

For much of the past two months, Gadhafi’s troops in tanks were deployed along parts of a downtown thoroughfare, Tripoli Street, while snipers took over high buildings. Late last month, rebel fighters drove regime loyalists to the outskirts of Misrata from where they’ve continued daily shelling attacks.

Amnesty said scores of Misrata residents not involved in fighting have been killed and hundreds injured by indiscriminate attacks, including with 122mm Grad rockets and 155mm artillery shells.

The report cited an April 14 attack in which rockets hit the Qasr Ahmed neighborhood, killing 12 residents, among them several who were waiting in line outside a bakery.

A day later, the research team found evidence of the use of cluster bombs which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. The group also said snipers targeted residents in areas under control of opposition fighters. Many residents were trapped near the front lines for weeks, the group said.

In another development Friday, France ordered 14 Libyan embassy employees to leave within 48 hours. They had worked for Libya’s embassy in Paris before it was shut about a month ago. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero would not say what the diplomats had done to merit expulsion.

France has recognized Libya’s opposition movement, and has been a major backer of a NATO-led military mission intended to protect civilians from an onslaught by Gadhafi’s forces.

On Thursday, members from the 22-nation Contact Group on Libya agreed to set up an internationally monitored fund that the rebels can access to provide basic services to the Libyan people. Countries have already pledged $250 million.

The United States said it would move to free up at least some of the more than $30 billion it has frozen in Libyan assets. Kaim, the Libyan government official, said the international community has no right to divert frozen Libyan assets, which total about $120 billion. “Any use of the frozen assets is like piracy on the high seas,” he said.

__

Associated Press reporter Martin DiCaro contributed reporting.

Gadhafi forces shell east Libyan city of Ajdabiya

Libyan rebel fighters load a truck with ammunition on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, Saturday, April 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110417/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Ben Hubbard, Associated Press Sun Apr 17, 8:44 am ET

AJDABIYA, Libya – Troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Sunday shelled the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya, a strategic eastern town that has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.

The government bombardment of Ajdabiya marked a setback for the rebels, who were forced to retreat a day after having advanced as far as the outskirts of the oil town of Brega, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the west.

On Sunday, dozens of vehicles, some of them rebel trucks with heavy machine guns mounted in the back, could be seen fleeing Ajdabiya toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north.

Last month, Gadhafi’s troops encircled Ajdabiya with tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery before NATO airstrikes decimated the forces besieging the city and allowed the rebels to reclaim the town and push west.

The NATO-led air campaign has kept rebels from being defeated on the battlefield by the better trained and equipped government forces, but it still has not been enough to completely turn the tide. The rebels have been unable to reach Gadhafi’s heavily defended hometown of Sirte, the gateway to the regime-controlled western half of the country.

Rebel advances west of Ajdabiya — through Brega and its companion oil center of Ras Lanouf, another 60 miles (100 kilometers) farther on — have ultimately foundered as rebels overextended their supply lines and were routed by the heavier firepower and more sophisticated tactics of the government forces.

But while Gadhafi’s troops have been able to halt rebel advances and push back east, they have been unable to move in on Benghazi, largely because of the threat of NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s exposed forces.

In Paris, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet dismissed statements from a top NATO official that the alliance is short of aircraft. Longuet said instead that NATO’s mission in Libya is hampered by a lack of ground information.

“There is no lack of planes but a lack of identification of mobile objectives,” he said in an interview published Sunday in the daily Le Parisien. “The problem is that we’re missing concrete and verifiable information on identified objectives on the ground.”

Longuet said that “coalition aviation is capable of breaking all logistical provisions of Gadhafi’s troops” to the east. But he acknowledged that in urban combat, “if the aviation avoids tragedies, it still isn’t solving the problem.”

After a meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week in Berlin, the alliance’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said NATO needed “a small number of precision aircraft” to hit Gadhafi’s forces.

“I’m hopeful that nations will step up to the plate,” he said, noting that the two-day Berlin meeting was not held to solicit new pledges of support.

The need for the additional aircraft comes as the situation has changed on the ground, Fogh Rasmussen said.

Gadhafi defiant despite NATO airstrikes in Tripoli

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110414/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

In this image made from TV , Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Thursday April 14 2011. Libyan TV broadcast footage on Thursday showi

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Karin Laub, Associated Press 24 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi rolled defiantly through the streets of Tripoli, pumping his fists as he poked through the sun roof of an SUV on Thursday — the same day that NATO airstrikes shook the city. The alliance’s foreign ministers, while united in their aim to pressure the Libyan leader to go, argued at a meeting over whether to step up military operations that have so far failed to rout him.

Gadhafi gave no sign that he’s willing to relent, despite two months of civil war and mounting international pressure for him to move aside. Instead, his loyalists pounded rebel positions in the besieged western city of Misrata with dozens of rockets for several hours, killing at least 13 people.

The main target of the assault was Misrata’s port, the only lifeline for rebels who have been trying to defend positions in the city, Libya’s third-largest, against Gadhafi’s forces.

In the capital of Tripoli, several large explosions were heard and a column of black smoke rose from the southeastern part of the city, followed by the sound of anti-aircraft guns, a resident said.

Libyan state television showed Gadhafi — dressed in a black Western blazer, black crew neck T-shirt, sunglasses and a hat — standing through the open sun roof of a sport utility vehicle on a fist-pumping, rapid ride through Tripoli with dozens of supporters chasing behind him. Libyan TV said the trip came on the same day that NATO airstrikes hit military and civilian areas in the capital.

The TV report said there were civilian casualties from the attacks. The report could not be confirmed.

The fighting in Libya began in mid-February when large anti-government protests escalated into a civil war. Rebels hold much of eastern Libya, while Gadhafi controls the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. Three weeks of international airstrikes haven’t routed Gadhafi’s forces.

Gadhafi’s troops unleashed three hours of heavy shelling on the port city of Misrata, which is partly held by rebels. The port is Misrata’s only lifeline, and government forces fired tank shells and dozens of Grad missiles , according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

“They want to flatten the area to deploy the troops on foot and invade the city,” said one of the witnesses, a doctor whose first name was Ayman. He added that a ship sent by Doctors Without Borders to evacuate 165 critically injured people to Tunisia had been scheduled to arrive Thursday morning at Misrata’s port, and he believed the government had shelled the port to interfere with the humanitarian aid.

Another doctor in Misrata, who gave his name only as Khaled for fear of retribution, said some of those killed were inside their houses asleep at the time of the shelling. Among the dead were two men aged 75 and 80.

Gadhafi forces have control of a highway on the outskirts of Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chaired a Cairo meeting of regional and international organizations on Libya and set three targets: reaching and implementing a cease-fire, delivering humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue on Libya’s future.

“Shelling your own people is not acceptable,” he said at a meeting at Arab League headquarters, referring to actions by Gadhafi’s forces. “This is a violation of human rights.”

At a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, the United States and its allies put up a united front on the goals of the alliance’s stalemated military mission in Libya but failed to resolve behind-the-scenes squabbling over how to achieve them.

NATO members agreed on paper with President Barack Obama that Gadhafi had to go to end the crisis, they also made clear that they would not be the ones to oust him. Although several NATO members want the alliance to commit more planes to expand the air campaign, the first day of meetings closed without any specific commitments for more aircraft.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed for unity, saying Gadhafi was taunting the alliance by continuing to strike cities held by rebels seeking his overthrow.

“As our mission continues, maintaining our resolve and unity only grows more important,” Clinton said. “Gadhafi is testing our determination.”

The United States is resisting suggestions that it resume a large combat role to break a deadlock between rebels and better-armed forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Clinton and other top diplomats pointedly said their U.N. mandate for an air campaign does not extend to Gadhafi’s exit by force.

The allies again resolved to enforce a U.N. arms embargo, protect civilians acting to push Gadhafi forces out of cities they have entered, and get in humanitarian aid.

But differences over the scope of the military operation persisted, with Britain and France insisting on more action, particularly from sophisticated U.S. surveillance and weapons systems, and U.S officials maintaining that the alliance already has the tools to get the job done.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris “had wanted (NATO) to intensify its strikes, and we received the assurance that that would be the case.”

Clinton did not say if the U.S. would send more ground attack craft, but she said Washington would continue to support the NATO mission until its goals were met.

Rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said the opposition in Benghazi is encouraged by the diplomatic talks but worried that it won’t translate in to concrete action fast enough to prevent more civilian deaths.

“It will be interesting to see if there is any movement on the ground or just a lot of talk and no action,” he said. “Is there something else on the diplomatic ground that they know that we don’t to put more pressure on Gadhafi? The guy is still shelling and killing, and it makes no difference to him.”

He mentioned specifically the shelling of Misrata and said the international community’s actions will largely determine how long the conflict lasts.

“They wrote off Gadhafi’s regime. The question is how fast their plan is going to take care of him. We know arming ourselves will lead to the eventual toppling of the regime. But are we willing to wait two years or three years or a year and a half? How many victims do we have to accept?”

Rebel leaders have said they would only consider a truce if it Gadhafi is removed from power first.

At the Cairo meeting of top diplomats, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Gadhafi “must leave immediately” and that Libyans should be given a chance to choose a new leader.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa told reporters after the meeting that the situation in Libya is “very grave.”

Brief clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Gadhafi demonstrators outside the meeting. The two camps hurled rocks at each other, with at least one protester seen with blooded face after being hit in the head with a stone. The anti-Gadhafi protesters outnumbered the pro-Gadhafi demonstrators, chased them and forced them to flee.

NATO said it had conducted 153 sorties in the last 24 hours, striking 13 bunkers, one tank and one armored personnel carrier in the Tripoli area and three multiple rocket launchers in the Brega area.

Journalists were taken to Tripoli’s Fateh University where they were shown damage they were told was the result of an airstrike earlier in the day. The blast shattered windows of several buildings, including two student cafeterias, and glass shards were scattered across the floor. Tiles of false ceilings had been knocked out in several lecture halls.

Government minders traveling with the journalists said the strike had hit a military target nearby and white smoke was seen rising from a group of trees several hundred yards from the campus. The minders would not elaborate or allow anyone to approach the targeted area. However, one journalist who had snatched a glimpse from a rooftop said she had seen an anti-aircraft battery at the site. Photographs taken later showed a large military truck in the area.

A Tripoli resident said many people were fasting in preparation for mass anti-Gadhafi protests Friday, the 25th anniversary of the 1986 U.S. raid on Tripoli.

Life in Libya “is becoming harsh,” with prices skyrocketing, gasoline scarce and long lines in front of bakeries, said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Al-Sadek al-Ghariani, a top Muslim cleric in Libya, said in a video posted on Facebook that it was a religious duty to join Friday’s protests. In February, he issued two fatwas calling for anti-Gadhafi protests and then went into hiding. Gadhafi forces apparently are trying to find him.

At the western edge of Ajdabiya, the main gateway town into the opposition-held east, two wounded rebel fighters were brought through, and the rebel forces retaliated by firing rockets in the direction of Brega.

In western Libya, rebels attacked a small military base about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Nalut and chased away 40 soldiers who had been trying to stop aid from Tunisia and harassing people trying to flee into that country. In apparent retaliation, Libyan government forces shelled the town of Tikut.

Rebel chief of Staff Abdel-Fatah Younes said the opposition fighters have received new anti-tank weapons from Qatar and that experts from that country are training the forces to use them.

Also Thursday, Libyan TV reported Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, mediated the release of Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera correspondent Amar al-Hamdan, who was en route to the Libya-Tunisian border.

___

Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Cairo, Sebastian Abbot in Ajdabiya, Libya; Hadeel al-Shalchi in Tunis, Tunisia; and Geir Moulson and Matthew Lee in Berlin contributed reporting.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110414/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nato_foreign_ministers

By GEIR MOULSON and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Geir Moulson And Matthew Lee, Associated Press 1 hr 7 mins ago

BERLIN – NATO nations stressed Thursday that their common aim in Libya is to bring an end to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the world must increase its support for the Libyan opposition.

The effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya topped the agenda at a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from NATO’s 28 member countries. Three weeks of airstrikes haven’t routed Gadhafi’s forces, causing tensions in the alliance.

Although NATO countries agree that Gadhafi must be ousted, his departure is not one of its military goals and the alliance has been at odds on how to proceed. One proposal from Italy — Libya’s former colonial ruler — calls for the western powers to provide defensive weapons to rebels.

France has said NATO isn’t doing enough, and was pushing other countries at the meeting to work “on more robust, more efficient, more rapid actions,” according to French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero in Paris.

The rebels — along with France and Britain — have been urging the U.S. military to reassert a stronger role in the NATO-led air campaign. The Obama administration, however, has been insisting the U.S. will stick to its plan to remain in a supporting role, and the Pentagon noted that Americans have flown 35 percent of all Libyan air missions over the last 10 days.

Clinton appealed to the other NATO foreign ministers to show unity.

“As our mission continues, maintaining our resolve and unity only grows more important,” Clinton said Thursday. “Gadhafi is testing our determination.”

NATO members are “sharing the same goal, which is to see the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya,” Clinton said. “We must also intensify our political, diplomatic and economic mission to pressure and isolate Gadhafi and bring about his departure.”

Clinton drew a line between NATO’s goals of enforcing an arms embargo, protecting civilians, and forcing the withdrawal of Gadhafi forces from rebel cities they have entered, with the international community’s demand that Gadhafi leave power.

The world must “deepen our engagement with and increase our support for” the Libyan opposition, she added.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance and its partners “are fully engaged in operations to safeguard the people of Libya, taking every measure possible to prevent Gadhafi’s brutal and systematic attacks.”

The alliance is keeping up “a high operational tempo,” he added.

France’s foreign minister, Alain Juppe, struck a diplomatic tone as he met with his counterpart from Germany, which isn’t taking part in the military operation and abstained in the U.N. vote authorizing it.

“In reality, we have the same objective — this objective is to allow the Libyan people to enjoy democratic freedom,” Juppe said, adding “there will not be a military solution to the problem, there can only be a political solution.”

“There is no future in Libya with Gadhafi,” Juppe added.

Juppe said outsiders can support political forces that aspire to democracy, but he was guarded when asked whether France thinks the Libyan rebels should be supplied with arms.

“France is not in this frame of mind,” he replied.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin agrees with France and others that “Libya can only have a good future if this dictator goes.”

He said he was “very happy that we have together succeeded in finally pushing through a comprehensive sanctions policy — there is now a de-facto oil and gas embargo (so) that the dictator Gadhafi’s cash reserves cannot be replenished.”

Thursday’s NATO meeting also was to address efforts to hand over security responsibility in Afghanistan to local forces.

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David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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