Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

NATO Extends Libya Mission After Vowing to Intensify Attacks

Posted by vmsalama on June 1, 2011

By Vivian Salama

Click here to view original

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its military partners extended their mission in Libya by 90 days as the coalition intensifies attacks on forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi.

“This decision sends a clear message to the Qaddafi regime: We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in astatement released today. “We will sustain our efforts to fulfill the United Nations mandate. We will keep up the pressure to see it through.”

The conflict between Qaddafi’s troops and rebels trying to end his four-decade rule has left most of the east in opposition hands and curbed oil exports. NATO said May 20 its increased air campaign has “effectively” pushed Qaddafi into hiding.

Air forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization fired on a vehicle storage facility in Tripoli, the capital, yesterday and destroyed three surface-to-air missile launchers, the alliance said in a separate statement today. They also struck logistical targets in the cities of Misrata, Zawiyah and Brega, NATO said.

The campaign has “largely paralyzed” the regime’s command-and-control structure, spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels yesterday.

The mission was authorized by a UN mandate to impose an arms embargo and no-fly zone, and protect civilians from attack.

Benghazi Bomb

A car bomb exploded today near a hotel in the rebel’s de facto capital, Benghazi. The blast occurred near the Tibesti Hotel, used by visiting foreign officials and journalists. There were no immediate reports of fatalities. Police fired into the air to disperse a crowd that had gathered after the explosion.

In Rome, former Libyan oil minister Shokri Ghanem confirmed to the Italian news agency ANSA that he had abandoned the Qaddafi regime last month and will join the opposition, after trying unsuccessfully to change the regime from within. There is “a lot of pressure both internal and external” on the regime, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a June 9 meeting of the 22-nation contact group on Libya taking place in the United Arab Emirates, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said yesterday.

An international fund has been established to provide humanitarian aid and other assistance to the rebel forces fighting Qaddafi’s regime, with Qatar contributing $400 million to $500 million and Kuwait $180 million, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said May 5.

Financial Pressure

The contact group pledged last month to step up pressure on Qaddafi to leave power and called for financial assets linked to the regime that have been frozen by international sanctions to be turned over to the fund.

Jordan will fly 100 Libyans wounded in the uprising to the country’s capital, Amman, for hospital treatment next week, the head of Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association said yesterday. The action is sponsored by the group, with the treatment of each patient costing an average of 12,000 dinars ($16,900), he said.

The unrest in Libya, holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves, caused supplies from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to decline in April, the International Energy Agency said May 12. Supplies from the North African nation “will remain absent from the market for the rest of 2011,” the agency said.

Crude for July delivery settled at $100.29 a barrel, down $2.41, on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after jobs and manufacturing data pointed to a slowing economy. Prices climbed $2.11 to $102.70 yesterday, the highest since May 10. Oil slipped 9.9 percent in May, the first decline in nine months.

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