Tuesday, April 12, 2011

French & Brits Slam NATO Over Libya

Updated 4:45 p.m. est

Qatar confirmed today it sold more than $100 million worth of oil for the Libyan rebels and provided gasoline, diesel and propane to the anti-Gadhafi government.

A shipment last week of 1 million barrels of crude oil sailed from the rebel-controlled eastern Libyan port of Tobruk. The shipment was worth about $120 million, the Associated Press reported.

Qatar also shipped four tankers full of gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels to rebels in their de facto capital of Benghazi in eastern Libya, according to the official Qatar News Agency.

The announcement came a day before Qatar hosts the Libya contact group, a gathering of Western and Arab leaders, senior rebels officials and others who support the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi.

Former Libyan intelligence chief and foreign minister, Musa Kusa, is also traveling to Doha for the meetings. Kusa is the top Libyan official to defect in recent weeks from the Gadhafi government, and may be able to provide the rebels with some insight into Gadhafi, if they let him.

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NATO again finds itself under fire for its efforts in Libya, with the criticism this time coming from the governments of the two lead protagonists who pushed for the air campaign.

The French and British are making a concerted effort this week for NATO to step up strikes on Moammar Gadhafi's forces and weapons, urging alliance members to pony up more planes to rain down a crushing blow on the regime.

"We know we are having an effect. Pro-Gadhafi forces cannot fight where they want, they cannot fight how they want and they cannot use the weapons they want," NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm, a senior NATO military officer said today in response to the criticism.

But British Foreign Secretary William Hague nonetheless urged alliance countries today to join the United Kingdom in upping the number of aircraft involved in the Libya mission.

"We must maintain and intensify our efforts in NATO," Hague said in Brussels, where European and NATO ministers are meeting this week. "A huge amount has been achieved in Libya, but clearly there is more to be done."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French radio NATO needs to focus on destroying Gadhafi's heavy weaponry.

”NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that. It must play its role today which means preventing Gaddafi from using heavy weapons to shell populations,” Juppe said, promising to bring up the issue with European Union foreign ministers today and with NATO ministers later this week.

The pressure for NATO to strike harder at Gadhafi came as Libyan defector Musa Kusa was headed to Doha to meet tomorrow with Qatari officials and high-ranking members of the rebels' Transitional National Council. There is some speculation Gadhafi's former foreign minister and spymaster may make a move to join the rebel movement.

"The more representative of Libya that the (TNC) are, the more broadly aligned they are, the less regional they are, the better that is for them," the Financial Times quoted a British official as saying. "There is therefore merit in them extending their base to get together with Musa Kusa. But the (TNC) will do so on their terms and we are not setting the agenda for them."

The rebels rejected an African Union-brooked peace deal this week because it did not include Gadhafi relinquishing power.

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