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France and Italy to send military officials to advise Libyan rebels

Meanwhile, UN official warns Libyan authorities that their military actions will come under “intense scrutiny”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pictured with the Libyan National Transitional Council's Mustapha Abdeljalil in Paris today.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy pictured with the Libyan National Transitional Council's Mustapha Abdeljalil in Paris today.
Image: AP Photo/Jacques Brinon

ITALY AND FRANCE HAVE followed Britain in announcing they will send military officials to Libya to advise the rebels in their continuing military struggle against pro-Gaddafi forces.

Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would be sending up to 20 advisers to Libya, but would not be arming the rebels.

While a rebel spokesperson welcomed the news from the coalition partners, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi said sending military advisers would worsen the situation.

Cluster bomb reports

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today condemned the reported use of cluster bombs by Libyan government forces. The weapons were allegedly used during the ongoing struggle for control of Misrata, the last western rebel-held city. Pillay said in a statement:

Using imprecise weaponry such as cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas will inevitably lead to civilian casualties.

She said that although there were no precise casualty figures, “it is clear that the numbers are now substantial” and include women and children.

Responding to reports of a cluster bomb exploding near a hospital in Misrata, Pillay said the deliberate targeting of medical facilities constitutes a war crime. She said that the actions of pro-government forces would be “subject to intense scrutiny”.

Pillay called on the Libyan government to ease its assault on Misrata, where hundreds have reportedly died in the fighting:

I urge the Libyan authorities to face the reality that they are digging themselves and the Libyan population deeper and deeper into the quagmire. They must halt the siege of Misrata and allow aid and medical care to reach the victims of the conflict,” Pillay said.

Libyan officials have repeatedly denied that their forces are shelling Misrata, which has reportedly been under siege for two months. Government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim said that international governments should “not listen to media reports or stories fabricated by the rebels”.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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