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Nato warns Qadhafi over use of civilian facilities

The warning came a day after foreign reporters were taken to Zliten, east of Tripoli, by government minders and shown what they were told was the remains of a clinic hit by a Nato bomb that killed seven people. - AFP (File Photo)

TRIPOLI: Nato warned that its warplanes will bomb civilian facilities if Moamer Qadhafi's forces use them to launch attacks, as the UN said Libya's capital is suffering shortages of fuel, medicine and cash.

The alliance warned on Tuesday it would target facilities including factories, warehouses and agricultural sites being used by loyalist troops.

The warning came a day after foreign reporters were taken to Zliten, east of Tripoli, by government minders and shown what they were told was the remains of a clinic hit by a Nato bomb that killed seven people.

Alliance military spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie said in Brussels that in recent days Nato had hit a concrete factory near Brega where regime forces were hiding and firing multi-barrel rocket launchers.

“Pro-Qadhafi forces are increasingly occupying facilities which once held a civilian purpose,” Lavoie told reporters in a video conference from the operation's headquarters in Naples, Italy.

“By occupying and using these facilities the regime has transformed them into military installations from which it commands and conducts attacks, causing them to lose their formerly protected status and rendering them valid and necessary military objectives for Nato,” Lavoie said.

Earlier, a Nato official said the alliance had “no evidence” that civilian facilities were hit in air raids near Zliten on Monday.

Baghdadi Mahmudi, the Libyan premier, reiterated on Tuesday that Qadhafi's departure is “not up for discussion,” after meeting UN special envoy to Libya Abdul Ilah al-Khatib.

“The departure from power of Colonel Qadhafi is not up for discussion,” he told a news conference after British Foreign Secretary William Hague demanded on Monday that Qadhafi step down but said he might be allowed to stay in the country.

“With all due respect to the British foreign minister, it is not up to him to take decisions on behalf of the Libyan people.”

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya Laurence Hart said in a statement a week-long fact-finding UN mission to Libya had identified several problems besetting Qadhafi's regime, which has been battling rebel forces for the past five months.

“Although the mission observed aspects of normalcy in Tripoli, members identified pockets of vulnerability where people need urgent humanitarian assistance,” Hart's statement said.

The health sector is under strain, having lost thousands of foreign workers at the beginning of the conflict, it said.

“Medical supplies, including vaccines, are rapidly running low ... although basic food items are available in the markets, prices are rising and there are concerns over the sustainability of supplies into the city especially as the (Muslim) holy month of Ramadan approaches,” it added.

Fuel shortages had become a “pressing problem” while reduced availability of cash was a “serious concern.” Meanwhile, ailing Libyan agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, convicted for life over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, made his first public appearance in nearly two years Tuesday at a meeting in support of Qadhafi.

Megrahi, 59, who has terminal cancer, was released from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds in August 2009. He is the only man convicted over the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which killed 270 people, mostly US nationals.

Television images showed an emaciated Megrahi, sitting on a wheelchair, at a meeting of his tribe in support of the embattled Qadhafi's regime.

His last public appearance was a September 2009 meeting with African lawmakers at a Tripoli hospital.

And in Benghazi, the rebel capital in the east of the country, a group of Libyan expats on Tuesday became the first to take a stab at forming a new political party since the start of the uprising in February.

“We call ourselves the New Libya Party because everything was destroyed,” said Ramadan Ben Amer, 53, a co-founder of the party, which is the offshoot of an online news website that he helped launch in late February to support the revolution.

“Qadhafi says he has built Libya brick by brick but, especially Benghazi, he has destroyed it brick by brick,” Ben Amer told AFP before presenting his party at the Uzu Hotel.

He said that of the 2,000 individuals who have joined the party in Libya so far, the majority hail from his native Benghazi or Derna, the hometown of co-founder Rajad Mabruk, 65, who lives in Dallas, Texas.

New Libya, he added, also has some 20,000 supporters among Libyan expats living in the United States, Canada and Germany.

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