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Pro-Government Shelling in Libya Delays Relief Mission

New recruits train and learn how to use weapons after signing up to join the rebel forces, at a training base in Misrata, Libya, April 26, 2011

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pounded the port of the western rebel stronghold of Misrata on Tuesday, delaying the docking of a humanitarian ship that was sent to rescue refugees.

Witnesses say pro-government forces shelled Misrata and also carried out military strikes on ethnic Berber towns in the western mountains region.

The port in Misrata has served as a lifeline for city residents, rebels and stranded migrants and as a sole way out from the fighting that has raged for weeks.

The U.N. World Food Program said Tuesday that an aid ship it chartered delivered tons of food, water and medical supplies along with three ambulances to the Misrata port on Saturday. However, Tuesday's attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces have delayed the arrival of a ship chartered by the International Organization for Migration.

Meanwhile, the commander of NATO operations in Libya has denied Libyan claims that an allied airstrike late Sunday in a complex where Mr. Gadhafi lives was an assassination attempt.

Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard said Tuesday that the NATO strikes target command and control facilities and not individuals.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed Libya with his British counterpart, Liam Fox, on Tuesday. The Financial Times, quotes a senior British official as saying one topic would be whether action can be taken to cut fuel supplies to the Libyan leader’s armed forces.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying his country would not support any United Nations Security Council resolutions which might escalate Libya's conflict. U.N. diplomats have not decided on any further actions.
Last month, Russia abstained from voting on a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone in Libya to protect civilians.

The Lavrov comments came after Italy agreed to join the NATO alliance in using military force in Libya. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a Tuesday news conference with France's Nicolas Sarkozy that Italy's involvement will be limited to helping strike military targets.

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