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British and Italian Embassies in Libya Attacked

Visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron (file)
Visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron (file)

The Italian and British embassies in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, have been attacked in apparent retaliation for a NATO missile strike that reportedly killed one of leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons and three young grandchildren.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague Sunday condemned the embassy attacks and said his government is expelling the Libyan ambassador to Britain. He said attacks on diplomatic missions violate the Vienna Convention.

Italy confirmed its embassy was among several in Tripoli damaged by vandals and accused Mr. Gadhafi's government of failing to take measures to protect foreign missions. Most western countries closed their Tripoli embassies and evacuated their staffs before the NATO military intervention began several weeks ago.

The United Nations said Sunday it was evacuating its international staff from Tripoli because of unrest in the Libyan capital. U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said the decision does not affect local staff or international personnel in rebel-held Benghazi.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said 29-year-old Saif al-Arab Gadhafi and three of his children were killed late Saturday during what Ibrahim called a direct attempt to assassinate the Libyan leader. The deaths have not been independently confirmed.

Ibrahim says Mr. Gadhafi and his wife were in their son's home at the time, but were not hurt. He said several other people were injured. Journalists taken to the site of the house reported extensive damage.

British Prime Minister David Cameron - without confirming fatalities - said Sunday that coalition targeting policy is in line with a U.N. mandate to prevent "a loss of civilian life." Mr. Cameron said NATO forces are targeting Libya's command and control units, as well as military hardware, and not specific people.

Russia's foreign ministry condemned the airstrike, saying Moscow has "serious doubts about statements by coalition members that strikes on Libya are not intended to physically eliminate Mr. Gadhafi and his family."

Earlier, a top Russian lawmaker-- Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian Parliament's International Affairs Committee-- said the attack proves the coalition is not protecting civilians, as mandated by the United Nations.

The Libyan leader lost an adopted daughter in a 1986 U.S. air raid on his Bab al-Aziziya residential compound. That strike came in retaliation for the bombing of a German discotheque in which two U.S servicemen were killed. Washington blamed Libya for the disco blast.

Meanwhile, Libyan troops continued their attacks on rebel-held targets.

Witnesses and opposition spokesmen in Misrata said pro-Gadhafi forces shelled the besieged city's battered port area Sunday. The bombardment occurred as a Maltese aid ship, the Mae Yemanja, was unloading food and medical supplies. The vessel quickly embarked back to sea.

Heavy fighting was also reported near the Tunisian border.

NATO Saturday rejected an offer from Mr. Gadhafi for negotiations to end the conflict in his country, saying it was without merit.

Libya says coalition air forces bombed a site near the national broadcast offices early Saturday while the Libyan leader was inside delivering an address to the nation. Last week, a NATO airstrike in Tripoli destroyed a building in the complex where Mr. Gadhafi lives.