The leaders of Britain, France and the United States say the NATO coalition will continue its military campaign in Libya until Moammar Gadhafi leaves power, while rebels said loyalist attacks killed 23 people in the besieged city of Misrata.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that leaving Mr. Gadhafi in power would be an “unconscionable betrayal” of the Libyan people.
In a joint article published in several international newspapers, The Times of London, France’s Le Figaro and The Washington Post , the leaders wrote it is “unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.”
Mr. Gadhafi, meanwhile, gave no sign he is willing to relent. His forces pounded Misrata with dozens of rockets for several hours Thursday. Anti-government rebels said at least 23 people were killed and many more wounded in what they called a “massacre” in Libya’s third-largest city.
The main target of the assault was Misrata’s port, the only lifeline for rebels to the outside world. Residential neighborhoods near the port were also shelled.
Meanwhile, Libyan state television reported that NATO warplanes had launched air strikes Thursday on targets in Tripoli. Witnesses in the capital said a series of explosions rocked the area shortly after NATO warplanes flew overhead.
Despite the bombing, Mr. Gadhafi was shown on state television Thursday, defiantly cruising through the streets of Tripoli, pumping his fists and waving from an open-top vehicle.
In Washington, State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. remains confident in NATO’s ability to oversee air operations in Libya. He commented after France asked for the United States to resume air raids.
France made the request on Thursday at a NATO meeting in Berlin. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, however, told alliance members that their forces have maintained a “high operational tempo” against legitimate targets in Libya. He said NATO needs more high-precision attack aircraft for the mission.
Another conference about Libya took place in Cairo. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the African and Arab and European delegates attending that meeting had agreed on a unified approach to finding a “lasting solution” to Libya’s turmoil.
The talks in Berlin and Cairo occurred a day after an international contact group of U.S., European and Arab partners pledged more monetary and political support for the Libyan opposition at a meeting in Doha. In its final statement, the group called on Mr. Gadhafi to leave power, saying he and his government had “lost all legitimacy.”
In Brussels, the European Union announced Thursday that it has removed former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa from a sanctions list, in an apparent bid to entice other Libyan officials to break ranks with the government. Koussa is the most senior official to flee Libya.