Libya’s deputy foreign minister has hinted the army may quit Misrata because of NATO airstrikes and leave local tribes to drive rebels out.
The threat by the regime came after rebel fighters opposed to Colonel Gaddafi’s forces appeared to make big gains in the besieged western port city, retaking key buildings used by government snipers.
Speaking to reporters Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim warned: ‘‘If they, (the Libyan army), cannot solve the problems in Misrata then the tribes from Karkouna, Bin Waled, Dawara and other villages, they will move in and they will talk to the rebels and if they don’t surrender then they will engage them in fighting.”
Such a tactic would arguably make NATO’s job of protecting civilian areas much harder. In the eastern city of Benghazi, senior US Senator John McCain called on powers to recognise the rebels legitimacy.
“I would encourage every nation, especially the United States, to recognise the Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people. We can help facilitate weapons to get to the hands of the Libyan military, those who are fighting against Gaddafi.”
Despite the US deployment of predator drones, McCain also called on Washington to send ground attack aircraft against Gaddafi’s forces with Western concerns the conflict maybe heading towards stalemate.
In Tripoli, NATO bombs appeared to strike near to Colonel Gaddafi’s compound in overnight air raids. The Libyan leadership said three people were killed in the attack.