Libyan rebel fighters secure the premises of a mass Friday prayer at Revolution square in the rebel stronghold of the Libyan eastern city Benghazi on May 27, 2011. - AFP Photo

GENEVA: Fighting in Misrata killed an estimated 12 people a day and wounded about 70 in the Libyan city’s six operating hospitals, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The number killed or injured has decreased significantly over the past week as fighting has eased, the WHO said, but said the health situation remained critical.

A reporter in Misrata said rebels and forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi were engaged in heavy fighting on the city’s western outskirts on Friday.

Nato on Friday accused forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Qadhafi of laying landmines around the rebel-held city of Misrata to prevent the population from moving.

The mining of Misrata’s surrounding area is part of the regime’s efforts to take back the key western port after rebels routed them from the city earlier this month, said the commander of the Nato mission in Libya, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard.

“This morning’s report showed us that a minefield was laid in the Misrata area,” Bouchard told a news conference via video link from his headquarters in Naples, Italy.

“Anti-personnel landmines, in contravention to international law, had been laid in the Misrata area to prevent the population from moving,” he said.

Misrata is the biggest rebel stronghold in the west of the country and has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Libya’s three-month-old conflict.

Meanwhile, Moscow’s special representative on Africa Mikhail Margelov said on Friday that Russia has contacts in Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s entourage with whom it can negotiate his departure.

“We shouldn’t talk to Qadhafi himself but with members of his cabinet, possibly with his sons. And we are making such contacts, so there is a hope for a political resolution,”

Margelov told reporters at the G8 summit in northern France.

Asked to specify who Russia’s main partner would be in such talks, he said: “Can you imagine, if I give you this person’s name and his head were to be cut off the next day?

“But yes, we do have people in Qadhafi’s camp.”

Russia says its G8 partners have suggested it take a mediation role in the Libyan crisis, although that has not been confirmed by other officials at the Deauville meeting. Russia has criticised the Western powers bombing campaign but has agreed with its G8 partners that Qadhafi should step aside.


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