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Coalition Forces Pound Libya as AU Brokers Talks


French Air Force Rafale jet fighter comes back from a mission to Libya, at Solenzara Air Base, Corsica, March 24, 2011

French Air Force Rafale jet fighter comes back from a mission to Libya, at Solenzara Air Base, Corsica, March 24, 2011

Coalition forces carried out strikes against pro-government targets in Libya on Thursday, as the African Union announced it is hosting talks aimed at trying to halt the fighting.

Turkey's parliament Thursday authorized the country's government to participate in NATO military operations in Libya. The only Muslim member of the Western alliance, Turkey has agreed to support a no-fly zone as long as civilians are protected and NATO takes over command of the international coalition operation in Libya.

A U.S. White House spokesman said Thursday that the transfer of control of the operation from coalition forces to NATO is a matter of days, not weeks.

The African Union announced Thursday that it will host a meeting on Libya at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Reuters news agency says that among those invited to Friday's meeting are representatives of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's government and Libyan opposition leaders.

Reuters quotes AU Chairman Jean Ping as saying the union wants to see a ceasefire, humanitarian assistance, protection for civilians and some kind of response to Libyans' demands for democracy.

Meanwhile, French fighter jets shot down a Libyan government warplane Thursday over the city of Misrata. The French military says it carried out airstrikes deep in Libya's interior overnight, targeting an air base 250 kilometers south of the Mediterranean coast.

Forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi continued to strike rebel-held strongholds in the coastal cities of Ajdabiya and Misrata.

The French News Agency, AFP, quotes a physician in Misrata as saying that attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces have killed at least 109 people in the city and wounded more than 1,300 in the past week.

Also Thursday, several explosions were reported east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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