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Libya Agrees to Give UN Humanitarian Access to Tripoli, Misrata

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos talks to reporters, during a press conference in Benghazi, Libya Monday, April 18, 2011.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos talks to reporters, during a press conference in Benghazi, Libya Monday, April 18, 2011.
Margaret Besheer

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in Budapest Monday that the U.N. has reached an agreement with the government of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya to establish a humanitarian presence in Tripoli.  U.N. officials also say Mr. Gadhafi’s government has promised them access to the besieged rebel city of Misrata.

U.N. Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that the agreement has several elements.

"Our understanding is that the government of Libya has agreed to facilitate a humanitarian presence in Tripoli. Among other things, they have agreed to facilitate the provision of equipment for international staff, and also agreed on steps to allow for the entry of international staff. The Libyan government said it would ensure unimpeded access through the Tunisian border into Libya up to Tripoli, and said it would ensure safe passage for humanitarian workers to areas where government of Libya is in control," he said.

U.N. Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos was in Tripoli on Saturday and in Benghazi on Sunday along with the secretary-general’s special envoy for Libya, Abdel-Elah al-Khatib.

Amos’ spokesperson, Stephanie Bunker, said in addition to access to Tripoli, the humanitarian chief discussed with the Libyan authorities the possibility of sending a U.N. team to the besieged rebel-held city of Misrata to assess humanitarian needs there.

"The government did agree to that and the government said that it would do everything possible to ensure that such a mission could go to Misrata safely from Tripoli, so that is where we are right now," she said.

She said the U.N. plans to send staff into Tripoli and then to Misrata to assess what is or is not needed. "Once we have that information, it all starts with the information, once we have that information, then we look at what do we need to get, to send and to get it in, and how can we do that," she said.

Bunker said the U.N. has staff in Cairo that is ready to go to Tripoli once access is established. She said from Tripoli they could move to Misrata very quickly, adding they could be there in a matter of "days" if the agreement holds. The U.N. already has an aid operation in the rebel-controlled eastern city of Benghazi.

While in Libya, humanitarian chief Amos and special envoy Al-Khatib were unable to persuade the Libyan government to agree to a cessation of hostilities in Misrata, where, despite a NATO-enforced No-Fly Zone, the city has continued to be attacked with shells and rockets.

The United Nations has appealed for $311 million for emergency humanitarian needs in Libya. Less than half that amount has been received so far.

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