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UAE: More strikes on Libya

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The United Arab Emirates said late Wednesday that Muammar Qaddafi was not interested in a diplomatic solution to the Libyan crisis, and it urged that there be more military strikes against his forces.

The unexpectedly tough call for increased strikes against Libya came on a day that NATO and the Allies escalated their bombing of Libya’s telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructure. The UAE’s call also seemed to suggest that the six Gulf States—who constitute an influential group within the 22-member Arab League—have reinforced their resolve to bring down the Qaddafi regime.

Because the Gulf States have traditionally been close to the United States and to the West, the UAE’s statement was interpreted by some diplomatic observers as an acknowledgment of the West’s position that Mr. Qaddafi’s continued leadership was untenable, and that the Libyan conflict, with its humanitarian tragedy, needed to be ended as soon as possible.

Separately, Saif al-Islam, a son of Muammar Qaddafi, said he was “very optimistic” that his father’s regime would prevail in the current Libya conflict.

His remarks were made even as Amnesty International said that government troops renewed the bombardment of Misrata.

“I am very optimistic and we will win,” Mr. Saif said on Libyan state television before the NATO attacks started on Wednesday. Meanwhile, France announced that it would send a limited number of “military liaison officers” to Libya to work with rebels. Senior French officials had said earlier that France would refuse to send ground troops to Libya.

“The situation changes every day in our favor,” Mr. Saif said before a group of about 50 attending the television broadcast.

The 38-year-old Mr. Saif vowed that his father’s regime would “not seek revenge” against the protesters fighting to oust him, according to Agence-France Press.

But he warned that “the use of weapons and force will only be met by force and those who cross the four red lines, set in 2007 (Qaddafi, Islam, state security and national unity) will have to bear the consequences.”

Mr. Saif accused opposition leaders in the western cities of Misrata and Zenten of being “drug dealers, or businessmen trying to avoid to pay back loans” of tens of millions of dollars.

He added that “Libya will not be the same” after the unprecedented uprising against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, 68, who has ruled the North African country for more than four decades, hinting at a constitution whose draft version was recently presented to the press in Tripoli.

An Amnesty International researcher, meanwhile, said that forces loyal to Mr. Qaddafi renewed the bombardment of Misrata on Tuesday, causing a number of casualties, according to Reuters.

Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city, the protesters’ last major stronghold in the west of the North African country, has been under siege for more than seven weeks.

Misrata’s population is estimated at 550,000 out of Libya's total population of 5.5 million.

Protesters and residents said pro-Qaddafi forces have pounded Misrata heavily in recent days, firing rockets and mortars at their positions and also hitting residential areas.

“They were shelling very close by, in the area slightly to the northwest of the center. I just left the hospital, there were casualties coming in,” Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera, who came to Misrata last week, told Reuters by phone.

“These are the areas which are, for now, in the hands of the opposition and they are being shelled by Colonel Qaddafi forces,” she said. “The city center is the front line.”

Aid groups say conditions are worsening in the city, with a lack of food, medicines and other basic items.

International humanitarian organizations have started evacuating trapped civilians by boat from its port.

“There is no electricity. The town is functioning on generators,” Ms. Rovera said. “The supply of water has now been cut off for weeks. They've gone back to using old wells.”

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe of France said he was “entirely hostile” to sending ground troops into Libya, or even Special Forces to guide air strikes.

NATO allies began their second month bombing forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi, but there appeared no end in sight to what experts are warning will be a prolonged stalemate with mounting civilian casualties, according to AFP.

The resilience of troops loyal to Colonel Qaddafi seems to have surprised NATO tacticians. Some critics have even called into question NATO’s military capability, pointing out that such capability so far did not appear to be able to defeat a relatively small military organization headed by Colonel Qaddafi.

But France did say it will step up air strikes on the colonel’s forces to protect civilians, and Britain promised to put military advisers on the ground.

Libya’s official news agency JANA reported that NATO air strikes on Tuesday hit Tripoli, Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, and Aziziya, south of the capital.

(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected] Abeer Tayel, also of of Al Arabiya, can be reached via email at: [email protected])