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June 02, 2011

Libyan Government Faces New Military, Diplomatic Pressure

The NATO bombardment of Libya continued Friday, even as new diplomatic efforts were seen in the effort to get leader Moammar Gadhafi to give up power.

China says its ambassador to Qatar has met with the head of Libya's rebel council, the first time China has revealed such contacts. Chinese officials said they stand by their position that the Libyan crisis should be resolved politically and that the country's future must be decided by its people.

Also, Russia is sending a special presidential representative, Mikhail Margelov, to Benghazi to meet with the rebels. And French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Friday that Gadhafi is "increasingly isolated." Juppe also said that France is working with those close to the Libyan leader to persuade him to leave, and is stepping up pressure on him with the NATO-led military operation in Libya.

For the last several nights, NATO warplanes have bombed targets in Tripoli, including Gadhafi's sprawling residential and command compound. Gadhafi has rarely been seen in public since a NATO airstrike killed one of his sons in April.

On Friday, United Nations officials criticized Qatar's forcible deportation of a Libyan woman who says she was gang-raped by troops loyal to Gadhafi.  

Officials with the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said Imad al-Obeidi had been awaiting resettlement as a refugee and that UNHCR was in the process of preparing papers for her departure from Qatar to a third country. The officials said al-Obeidi's deportation to Benghazi is against international law.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. is concerned for al-Obeidi's safety and has been working to ensure she finds "appropriate asylum." Toner said U.S. officials have spoken to her in recent days.

Al-Obeidi burst into a Tripoli hotel in March to tell foreign journalists she had been raped by government troops, saying she was targeted because she is from Benghazi. Her rape claim could not be independently verified.

Libyan authorities have called al-Obeidi a drunk, a prostitute and a thief.

Western governments say they believe that, through a combination of diplomatic pressure and military action, they are wearing down Gaddafi's ability to control Libya. However, the U.S. role in the conflict has been controversial at home.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled legislation Thursday that would allow the United States to remain engaged in a NATO-led operation against Libya, but bar the use of any ground troops except to rescue a U.S. service member from imminent danger.

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