Gaddafi accuses West of conspiracy
MUAMMAR Gaddafi’s regime accused the West of ‘ ‘ a conspiracy t o divide Libya’’ as Washington, under mounting pressure to help opposition forces, said it was still premature to arm the rebels.
Fresh f i ghting was r eported in the city of Zawiyah just outside the Gaddafi-held capital Tripoli, while Gulf states including Saudi Arabia backed efforts to impose a no-fly zone over the oil-rich north African country.
In Tripoli, Libya’s foreign minister said the West was trying to split the country by secretly building up contacts with rebel leaders.
‘‘ It is clear that France, Great Britain and the US are now getting in touch with defectors in eastern Libya. It really means there is a conspiracy to divide Libya,’’ said the minister, Mussa Kussa.
His comments came after British Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted a ‘‘ serious misunderstanding’’ led to the seizing of a special forces team in a bungled mission to contact Libyan rebels. The United States, facing rising pressure at home and abroad to do more t o protect ci vil i ans and hasten Mr Gaddafi’s exit from power, appeared to be wary of throwing weapons into a conflict involving groups about which it knows little.
While the White House said it was considering arming the rebels, it insisted that such a move would be premature and Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned that intervention would likely require international ap proval. ‘‘ It would be premature to send a bunch of weapons to a post office box in eastern Libya, we need to not get ahead of ourselves,’’ White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
On the ground, Libyan opposition groups and media reported tank fire and fierce battles between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists in the city of Zawiyah, a flashpoint 60km west of Tripoli.
The rebels began pulling back from the key oil port of Ras Lanuf as fighter jets targeted defences on the edge of town, throwing up palls of smoke amid fears that government forces were gearing for an attack.
After the bloodiest fighting of the three-week-old conflict on Sunday, the United Nations demanded urgent access to scores of ‘‘ injured and dying’’ in the western city of Misrata.
A doctor in Misrata said 21 people, including a child, had been killed in shelling and clashes there on Sunday, and 91 people wounded, t he ‘‘ overwhelming majority’’ of them civilians.