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TRIPOLI UNDER ATTACKS AGAIN

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TRIPOLI, Libya — Nato has carried out its heaviest air strikes against Libya’s capital in more than two months of bombing, amid upbeat comments from France and the United States on progress towards ending Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.
Six loud explosions rocked Tripoli late yesterday within 10 minutes, following powerful strikes 24 hours earlier, including one on Gaddafi’s compound, that Libyan officials said killed 19 people and state television blamed on “colonialist crusaders”.
  • French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said yesterday that the Nato bombing campaign was making progress and should achieve its objectives within months. An alliance official said Tuesday’s early strike was “the most concentrated to date”.
  • France, Britain and the United States are leading the air strikes, which started on March 19 after the United Nations Security Council authorised “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces as he sought to crush an uprising against his 41-year rule.
  • The three countries have declared they will keep up the campaign until Gaddafi leaves power. Juppe’s upbeat assessment came after the United States said the Libyan leader’s departure was inevitable.
  • “There are more and more centres of resistance (to Gaddafi), especially in the west,” Juppe said during a question and answer session in the French parliament. “Defections are speeding up.”
  • “I can assure you that our will is to ensure that the mission in Libya does not last longer than a few months.”
  • France said this week it would deploy attack helicopters to ensure more precise attacks against Gaddafi forces embedded among the civilian population of Libyan cities. Britain said yesterday it was considering doing the same.
  • Military analysts said these plans and the intensified bombing of Tripoli reflected growing Western worries that Libya’s civil war was dragging on indecisively. But they said the new moves may not be enough to tip the balance quickly.
While critics argue that Nato has overstepped its mandate, rebels have complained Western forces are not doing enough to break Gaddafi’s army.
Gaddafi denies his forces target civilians and says rebels, who control the east of the oil-producing country, are criminals, religious extremists and members of al Qaeda.
Source: Agency
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