Life On Earth
Libya Declares Ceasefire, Violates It
By Maria Golovnina
TRIPOLI | Fri Mar 18, 2011 12:54pm EDT
Muammar Gaddafi's government said it was declaring a unilateral ceasefire in its offensive to crush Libya's revolt, as Western warplanes prepared to attack his forces.
But government troops pounded the rebel-held western city of Misrata on Friday, killing at least 25 people including children, a doctor there told Reuters. Residents said there was no sign of a ceasefire.
And in the rebel-controlled east, the government declaration was dismissed as a ruse or a sign Gaddafi was desperate.
"We have to be very cautious. He is now starting to be afraid, but on the ground the threat has not changed," a French spokesman said. Britain, like France a strong advocate of armed action, said it would judge Gaddafi by "actions, not his words".
The United States, whose role is crucial despite its insistence it is not leading the international campaign, was also skeptical. "We would have to see actions on the ground and that is not yet at all clear," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Turkey, an opponent of military action, said the Libyan ceasefire should go into effect immediately.
"We decided on an immediate ceasefire and on an immediate stop to all military operations," Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said in Tripoli on Friday, after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing military action.
He called for dialogue with all sides. Gaddafi had vowed to show "no mercy, no pity" on Thursday, and rebels pleaded for foreign aid before time ran out.
The ceasefire announcement was probably prompted by Gaddafi's realization that air strikes could seriously degrade his military, said John Drake, senior risk consultant at AKE.
"The Gaddafi regime may be willing to negotiate," he told Reuters. "With talk of strikes against military convoys he may be concerned about a significant attack on his military."
Officials said one or more Arab countries would play a role in the Libya operation. Gulf state Qatar said it would take part but it was unclear whether that meant military help. Tunisia said it would not play any role.
"Britain will deploy Tornadoes and Typhoons as well as air-to-air refueling and surveillance aircraft," Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament.
"Preparations to deploy these aircraft have already started and in the coming hours they will move to airbases from where they can start to take the necessary action."
Italy said it would make seven military bases available along with equipment and troops and Naples could be the coordination center.
Denmark and Canada said they planned to contribute warplanes. France is to host talks on Saturday to discuss the action with British, Arab League and other leaders.
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