Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a meeting in 2010. Venezuela offered to establish a mediation team to work toward resolving the conflict in the North African state. a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Venezuelan president condemns Western-led bombardment of Libya
CARACAS, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday condemned the Western-led military action against the Libyan government, claiming that the "indiscriminate bombing" was causing civilian casualties.
During his weekly television and radio program, Chavez said the air raids on Libya must be stopped, saying no country has the right to drop bombs on Libya.
He said that dialogue instead of bombs is the only way to resolve a conflict.
According to figures provided by the Libyan authorities, at least 64 people were reported to have been killed and 150 others wounded following the joint operation led by the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy on Saturday night and early Sunday.
French warplanes took the lead in the air strikes, which came after the UN Security Council passed a resolution on Friday imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.
World reactions to Western military strikes against Libya
BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- As the Western-led joint military action against Libya stretched into a second day on Sunday, the world begins to react to this military operation.
French warplanes took the lead in the air strikes, which came after the UN Security Council imposed a no-fly zone over Libya.
At least 64 people were reported to have been killed and 150 others wounded following the joint operation led by the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy.
After the first round of air strikes, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on Sunday that the initial stage of an international operation to set up a no-fly zone over Libya "has been successful."
With the no-fly zone in place, the government forces' advance on rebel stronghold Benghazi has also been stopped, Mullen said.
British Defense Secretary Liam Fox agreed that early indications suggested the operation in Libya was "very successful."
However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia regretted the foreign military intervention, urging Western coalition forces to stop indiscriminate air strikes in Libya.
"We are calling on the respective states to halt the indiscriminate use of force," the ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa criticized on Sunday international coalition force's bombing against Libya, saying the situation in Libya was not what Arabs had envisaged when they agreed on the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
"What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians," said Moussa.
China's Foreign Ministry on Sunday expressed regret over the multinational military strike against Libya, saying that it did not agree with resorting to force in international relations.
China believes that the tenet and principles of the UN Charter and relevant international laws should be adhered to, and Libya's sovereignty, independence, unification and territorial integrity should be respected, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
Meanwhile, reports on late Saturday said a high-level African Union (AU) panel on the Libya crisis opposes any foreign military intervention in Libya.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast Sunday condemned the West's military air raid on Libya, saying he doubted about the true objectives of "dominant powers" in occupying other countries.
"These powers usually enter the scene under the pretext of supporting people ... However, they are pursuing their own interests which are based on dominance over other nations," Mehmanparast said.
Qatar Sunday showed its backing towards the military intervention against Libya, saying it would take part in the joint action against Libya's embattled government forces.
"Qatar will take part in military action, only because we believe Arab nations must participate in this action... the situation there is intolerable," Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said.
India Sunday regretted the air strikes on Libya conducted by the six Western nations led by the United States, Britain and France.
"India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya. It regrets the air strikes that are taking place," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Sunday that his country will support the participation of NATO military operations in Libya.
In his view, the Czech Republic is not currently involved in military operations, but he did not rule out the possible participation of the Czech anti-chemical troops.
U.S., French, British forces expand Libya bombing campaign
Smoke billowed from Moammar Kadafi's massive residential compound in Tripoli. The U.S. scoffs at Libyan cease-fire announcement.
By Borzou Daragahi, Brian Bennett and Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times
6:07 PM PDT, March 20, 2011
Reporting from Tripoli, Washington and Cairo
U.S., French and British forces blasted Libyan air defenses and ground forces, drawing intense volleys of tracer and antiaircraft fire over Tripoli on Sunday on the second day of a military campaign that will severely test Moammar Kadafi's powers of survival.
Late Sunday, smoke billowed from Kadafi's massive Bab Azizia residential compound shortly after an earth-shaking explosion. Rounds of antiaircraft and tracer fire lit up the night for the third time in less than 24 hours.
Immediately afterward, the streets of the capital erupted with car horns and chanting and celebratory gunfire in a show of support for Kadafi, whose armed loyalists retain a tight grip on the streets.
A Libyan military official announced a 9 p.m. cease-fire by the country's armed forces, but U.S. officials scoffed at the declaration.
"Our view at this point is that it isn't true or it's been immediately violated," said national security advisor Tom Donilon, briefing reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night. "So we'll continue to monitor Kadafi's actions, not just his words."
After focusing on air defenses in the first hours of the campaign, U.S. and coalition forces expanded their strikes to include attacks on Libyan ground forces that threaten civilians or are able to shoot down planes enforcing a no-fly zone, a senior U.S. military official said.
The assault cheered the rebels, who had seized control of large areas of the country as they sought to build on months of discontent across the Arab world but in recent days found themselves retreating in the face of Kadafi's superior firepower.
Kadafi declared he was willing to die defending Libya and, in a statement broadcast hours after the attacks began, condemned what he called "flagrant military aggression." He vowed to strike civilian and military targets in the Mediterranean.
On Sunday morning, Kadafi returned to state television airwaves, vowing, "We will win the battle," and "oil will not be left to the USA, France and Britain."
"You are transgressors, you are aggressors, you are beasts, you are criminals," Kadafi said. "Your people are against you, there are demonstrations everywhere in Europe and the U.S. against this aggression on the innocent Libyan people. The people are with us. Even your people are with us."
Government spokesman Mousa Ibrahim told reporters that 48 people were killed by the allies' strikes and 150 others were wounded near targets in Tripoli, Tajoura, the Kadafi stronghold of Surt, rebel-held Misurata and the eastern town of Zuwara.
"If Libya goes down, the whole Mediterranean shall go down, the whole of Africa, the north of Africa," Ibrahim said. "We are arming our people, men and women. We will not allow Libya to be lost like Palestine, like Iraq, like Somalia, like Afghanistan."
Authorities took journalists to what they described as Tripoli's seaside "martyrs" cemetery in attempt to substantiate official claims of the dead and injured.
Journalists were met with the anger of hundreds of protesters screaming anti-American slogans and chanting boisterously in support of Kadafi. Regime supporters, most of them from the neighborhoods of Tripoli that are political strongholds of Kadafi, flooded the cemetery grounds for the mass funeral, which was broadcast live on state television.
"There is no God but God and the martyr is the beloved of God," they chanted.
But the visiting international journalists said they found few of the ordinary characteristics of Middle East funerals, including politically charged ceremonies for those who died in battle. No burial processions were seen. There were no portraits of the martyrs, and no grieving mothers lying beside the tombs of their loved ones.
Instead, journalists were pummeled with contradictory stories about the dead by sometimes stone-faced men claiming to be relatives of the deceased. There were more than two dozen open graves, but only one body, wrapped in a white Islamic shroud and described as a young man named Ramadan Ashegani, could be seen placed into the dry earth.
Both Kadafi and his international foes, who began their campaign less than two days after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding Libyan forces pull back from rebel-held areas, positioned themselves for an endgame that focused on whether the longtime leader would remain in power.
U.S. officials acknowledged that they were seeking to oust Kadafi but also that they did not have a clear path to do so.
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, said the objective of the military campaign was "limited" to protecting civilians and might not result in Kadafi relinquishing power. Kadafi remaining in Libya is "certainly potentially one outcome," Mullen said, noting that the U.N. resolution "isn't about seeing him go."
But a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Washington and its allies also were committed to using nonmilitary means to force Kadafi out, including steps intended to cripple the Libyan economy and isolate him diplomatically.
The limited advance planning puts the Obama administration and its allies at risk of falling into a protracted standoff in which Kadafi controls part of the country and the rebels another. U.S. officials have warned in recent weeks that a large ungoverned expanse could become a haven for terrorists.
Seeking to rally regional opinion to his side, the Libyan leader cast the military campaign as another example of Western colonialism and a Christian "crusader" mentality toward the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East — an effort likely to be hampered by Kadafi's long history of meddling in neighbors' affairs.
France initiated the military action Saturday, launching attacks on Libyan government armored vehicles near Benghazi after an emergency meeting of U.S., European and Middle Eastern leaders in Paris. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country and its partners were determined to stop Kadafi's "killing frenzy."
Daragahi reported from Tripoli, Libya; Bennett from Washington; and Therolf from Cairo. Times staff writers Paul Richter in Washington, Peter Nicholas in Brasilia, Brazil, and special correspondent Kim Willsher in Paris contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times