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NATO to meet over support for Libyan no-fly zone

Meanwhile, a fifth night of coalition airstrikes hasn’t deterred pro-Gaddafi forces from shelling rebel-held areas.

French jet fighters stand ready for a mission to Libya from Corsica yesterday.
French jet fighters stand ready for a mission to Libya from Corsica yesterday.
Image: AP Photo/Francois Mori)

A FIFTH NIGHT OF COALITION aerial bombardment hasn’t deterred Gaddafi’s forces, as reports continue to emerge of them firing on rebel-held towns.

The US military denies any civilian casualties as a result of the coalition attacks, while Al Jazeera reports that Libyan state television says that both military and civilian targets “were attacked by colonialist crusaders”.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe says that the coalition action may last a matter of days or weeks instead of months.

NATO

EU and NATO leaders will the discuss ongoing Libyan action at special meetings today. Meanwhile, NATO’s top military commander, US Admiral James Stavridis, is to meet with Turkish military leaders.

Turkey, which is adament that the rules of military engagement with Libya must focus solely on protecting civilians, is seen as holding up a NATO agreement to maintain the UN’s no-fly zone over Libya.

Turkish diplomats helped gain the release of journalists for British and American news organisations who were being held by Gaddafi’s forces. On Monday, the families of four Al Jazeera staff members who are still being detained in Libya held a sit-in at Libyan embassies.

Earlier, NATO members had indicated they did not want to commit to action in Libya given their current participation in Afghanistan, but NATO ships are already patrolling the coast of Libya to enforce a UN arms embargo on the country.

Fleeing fighting

Overnight, several loud explosions were heard in Tripoli and the rebel-held city Misrata came under fire from government tanks. The BBC reports that there have been reports of fighting between rebels and Gaddafi forces in Ajdabiya.

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, says that thousands of Libyans are internally displaced as a result of the fighting. About 320,000 people are already understood to have crossed the borders into neighbouring countries to escape the conflict.

- Includes reporting from the AP

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