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West bombs Libya, Gaddafi vows 'long drawn war'

Sunday March 20, 2011 10:29:49 PM, IANS

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Tripoli: A coalition of American, British and French forces bombed by air and from the sea key targets in Libya in aid of rebels holding Benghazi, as the country's long-time ruler, Muammer Gaddafi, vowed to stay on and promised "a long drawn war".

Upto 64 people were killed in the western strikes, Libyan authorities said, on the second day of the biggest military intervention after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Repeated onslaughts by the American and French jets and US and British warships targetted Libyan tanks and armoured vehicles close to Benghazi, the country' second largest city and the epicentre of mass revolt against Gaddafi that began last month.

The airstrikes and casualties let to chorus of protests from Russia, China and India, with Moscow demanding an immediate dailogue to end the "bloodshed".

Al Jazeera quoted eyewitness as saying that destroyed military vehicles and at least a 14 dead fighters littered the road between Benghazi and Ajdabiya.

In the western city of Misurata, which regime forces have sieged for days, residents said snipers were positioned on rooftops in the centre of town, making people too afraid to walk in the streets.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said that a UN-backed no-fly zone in Libya is "effectively in place".

Air attacks by coalition forces have taken out most of Libya's air defence systems and some airfields, Mullen said in interview on CNN's "State of the Union" programme.

"I would say the no-fly zone is effectively in place," Mullen told CNN.

French jets launched the attack - named Operation Odyssey Dawn - Saturday, hitting government tanks and armoured vehicles on the road to Benghazi.

The French were joined by US and British ships which fired mores than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles at installations and key assets. At least 20 sites were hit, officials said.

Meanwhile, a defiant Gaddafi said his country will fight on.

"We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits," Gaddafi said in a phone call to Libyan state TV Sunday morning, the BBC reported.

He said Western forces had no right to attack Libya, which had done nothing to them.

"We will fight inch by inch," he said. The UN Security Council has approved the use of force to protect civilians.

Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam called the attack a "big mistake".

"Believe me, one day you will wake up and you will find out that you were supporting the wrong people and you had made a big mistake in supporting those people," he told Christiane Amanpour for ABC This Week. "It's like the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq. It's another story."

The Libyan state TV said that the government is ready to arm one million civilians to fight the coalition forces, DPA said.

The Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi said nothing should be done that aggravates the worsening situation for the people of Libya, where a revolt erupted in February against the four-decade rule of Gaddafi.

"India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya. It regrets the air strikes that are taking place," a ministry statement said.

The head of the Arab League also criticised the bombardments.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," said Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, the BBC reported.

The revolt in Libya started in February after the successful toppling of long time rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.







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Picture of the Day

President of India Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressing at the inauguration of the National Festival of Tribal Dances, ‘PRAKRITI’, in New Delhi on March 16, 2011. Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture, Kum. Selja, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Mahadev S. Khandela are also seen.

(Photo: Mukesh Kumar)



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