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Italy, France Join Effort to Help Libyan Rebels

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, with Libyan National Transitional Council's Mustafa Abdel Jalil after a meeting at the Elysee Palace, Paris, April 20, 2011

Two more European Union countries say they will join Britain in sending military advisers to Libya to help rebel forces.

Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said his country will send 10 instructors to help train the rebels who are battling forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Earlier Wednesday, France also announced that it will send military advisers for the Libyan rebels.

Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met in Paris with the head of the rebels' transitional council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil. After the meeting, Jalil told reporters that he invited Sarkozy to visit the rebels' stronghold, the eastern city of Benghazi.

On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said about a dozen British military advisers will help Libya's rebel forces work on organization, logistics and communications. He said the advisers would not take part in any fighting.

Libya’s foreign minister, Abdul Ati al-Obeidi criticized the dispatch of foreign military advisers, saying it will harm chances for peace in the country. In an interview with the BBC, Obeidi called for a cease-fire followed by a six month period to prepare for an election.

Fighting continued Wednesday between rebel and pro-government forces at the besieged western city of Misrata, where residents are pleading for international intervention. NATO airstrikes again struck government installations in several cities.

Leaders in rebel-held Misrata called for the urgent intervention of foreign ground troops to protect the 500,000 civilians there, the first such request by anyone among Libya's opposition forces.

The rebels' civilian leadership, the Transitional National Council, however, has rejected the presence of foreign troops on Libyan soil to help their cause.

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