30 Mar 2011

Air strikes to continue in Libya

3:30 pm on 30 March 2011

Delegates at an international conference have agreed air strikes on Libya will continue until leader Muammar Gaddafi complies with United Nations resolutions or steps down.

Western forces led by the US, France and Britain began air attacks on Libyan government troops on 19 March in order to enforce a United-Nations-sanctioned no-fly zone and protect civilians.

NATO assumed responsibility for the military operation this week.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the outcome of the conference, insisting that the bulk of the international community is in agreement, Radio New Zealand's London correspondent reports.

"This conference has shown that we are united in our aims, we are united in seeking a Libya that does not pose a threat to its own citizens or to the region or more widely."

Delegates also agreed to impose sanctions on Colonel Gaddafi and his close associates.

At the London meeting, participants also agreed to send a United Nations representative to Libya to discuss a possible exit strategy for Col Gaddafi, and to set up a contact group to co-ordinate international support for Libyans.

Mr Hague said Qatar has agreed to convene the first meeting of the body as soon as possible.

Italy and Germnay have been among the countries suggesting that Colonel Gaddafi should be allowed to go into exile without fear of prosecution as a way of ending the conflict in Libya.

Britain maintains Colonel Gaddafi should face prosecution for war crimes. He has been in power since 1969.

The conference brought together all members of the coalition in the military operation, as well as the United Nations, NATO, the African Union and the Arab League.

Meanwhile, forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi have launched a new attack in eastern Libya, driving out rebels from the recently captured towns of Ben Jawad and Ras Lanuf.

In the capital Tripoli, several large explosions have been heard close to his residence.