News / Africa

Libyan Conflict Seen as Stalemate

With a nod to events in Ivory Coast, graffiti reflects Libyan rebel demands that leader Moammar Gadhafi leave, April 12, 2011
With a nod to events in Ivory Coast, graffiti reflects Libyan rebel demands that leader Moammar Gadhafi leave, April 12, 2011

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Fresh fighting in Libya Tuesday follows the failure of an African diplomatic initiative to end hostilities between pro- and anti-government forces.

Both the Libyan government and rebel leaders outwardly express confidence their side will prevail.  But behind the scenes, concerns are rising that the eight week conflict may be at a stalemate.

Government forces continue to besiege the western rebel city of Misrata, and remain just outside Ajdabiya, a key eastern town that has changed hands numerous times.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister and Intelligence chief Moussa Koussa, who defected to Britain two weeks ago, warned in an interview with the BBC that the country risked falling into the chaos seen in Somalia.

But rebels dismiss the idea, questioning Koussa's motives, and that the conflict has any of the elements of civil war. Koussa, meanwhile, is heading to Qatar to attend an international conference on Libya's future, where he is likely to express his views.

"We don't have ethnic groups waging war against each other.  We don't have political parties waging war against each other.  There are two fronts.  There are the people of the country, the Libyan people, and Colonel Gadhafi and his regime and his kids,” Rebel media spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said.

Whatever their popular support, the rebels have been unable to make much headway on the battlefield.   Their farthest drive was under the aerial protection of a mission led by the U.S., France and Britain. Those gains have been reversed during the time NATO has been in charge of the campaign.

With the momentum bogging down, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on NATO to do more.

Speaking on French radio, Juppe said NATO has to play its role in full, including preventing the Libyan leader from using heavy weaponry to bomb the population.

The call came one day after an African Union delegation failed to broker a peace deal, rejected by rebels for failing to include Colonel Gadhafi's ouster.

While possible diplomatic and military solutions to end the conflict remain unclear -- a Turkish initiative is currently under consideration -- one thing is certain: the humanitarian toll is high.

"Regrettably, the longer this goes on, the more the civilian population will be affected by the conflict, by the fighting and we are deeply troubled by what we're starting to see as more fundamental issues affecting daily life," Simon Brooks, head of the Red Cross mission in Benghazi added.

Brooks says the Red Cross has been able to deliver supplies this week to Misrata.   But he adds he sees signs that if the conflict were to continue for any length of time, it would be a major challenge for such groups as the Red Cross to respond.  

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