Britain sending military advisers

Britain is sending up to 20 military advisers to help Libya’s ragtag rebel force break a military stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi’s army, even as NATO acknowledges that airstrikes alone cannot stop the daily shelling of the besieged opposition-held city of Misrata.

TRIPOLI, Libya — Britain is sending up to 20 military advisers to help Libya’s ragtag rebel force break a military stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi’s army, even as NATO acknowledges that airstrikes alone cannot stop the daily shelling of the besieged opposition-held city of Misrata.

Gadhafi’s troops have been pounding Misrata indiscriminately with mortars and rockets, a NATO general said Tuesday, and residents reported more explosions and firefights in Libya’s third-largest city.

Hospitals are overflowing and 120 patients need to be evacuated from the city that has been under siege for nearly two months, the World Health Organization said.

The plight of Misrata’s civilians and the battlefield deadlock are raising new questions about the international community’s strategy in Libya.

The leaders of the U.S., Britain and France have said Gadhafi must go, but seem unwilling to commit to a more forceful military campaign. NATO’s mandate is restricted to protecting civilians.

Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of NATO’s military committee, said that even though the military alliance’s operations have done “quite significant damage” to the Libyan regime’s heavy weaponry, what Gadhafi has left is “still considerable.”

Asked if more airpower is needed, Di Paola said any “significantly additional” allied contribution would be welcome.

The rebels seized control of most of eastern Libya shortly after the uprising began in February, while Gadhafi is entrenched in the west, but the front line hasn’t changed dramatically since then.

“I am very optimistic. We will win,” Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, said on state television, referring to the fighting.

“The balance changes every day in our favour,” he said in a joking but defiant manner. Frustration over the stalemate has spurred talk in the West of new tactics, including dispatching military personnel to Libya.

Britain took the lead Tuesday, saying it is sending up to 20 senior soldiers who will help organize the rebels, many of whom have had little military training or battle experience.

However, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would not arm the opposition or assist in military operations.

Britain has already sent non-lethal support, including 1,000 sets of body armour and 100 satellite phones.

“As the scale of the humanitarian crisis has grown, so has the urgency of increasing our efforts to defend civilians against the attack from Gadhafi forces,” Hague said.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said Britain’s attempt to help the rebels is futile.

“This is not in the interest of the U.K.,” Kaim told The Associated Press. “This is an impossible mission. To organize who? They (the rebels) are different groups. There is no leader. They are not well-organized, and I am sure it will be a failure.”

Allies would also consider supplying Libya’s rebels with technical equipment such as radars or systems to intercept and block telecommunications, said Italian Foreign Minster Franco Frattini. He said this would be discussed at a meeting next month of the international contact group on Libya.

“We have condemned the regime’s violence, the presence of snipers on the rooftops of Tripoli’s houses and in the besieged cities,” Frattini said. “We cannot say this isn’t our problem.”

However, both Italy and France remain opposed to sending ground troops. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday he is “totally hostile” to the idea.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a rebel leader touring Europe in search of more logistical support, said the Libyan opposition is not looking to other nations to remove Gadhafi.

“We are not looking or inviting anybody to kill him, and we don’t have such a possibility, but we hope he and his regime can leave Libya as soon as possible,” Abdul-Jalil said in Italy.

The European Union, meanwhile, said it is ready, in principle, to provide armed escorts to secure U.N. aid convoys in Libya, but U.N. officials said they don’t need such guards for the time being. The proposal drew a warning from Kaim that sending armed escorts would be tantamount to a military operation.

The U.N. Security Council resolution bans the use of foreign troops in Libya. Russia — a veto-wielding member of the Council — already has complained that the NATO action in bombing Libya’s military has overstepped its mandate, and therefore is unlikely to approve any further extension of the alliance’s operations.

In Misrata, an opposition bridgehead in western Libya, rebels have held out despite daily rocket and artillery barrages, in part because they continue to get supplies by sea. The rebels hold positions near the port, while Gadhafi’s forces control parts of Tripoli Street, a downtown thoroughfare.

NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm said his forces have destroyed more than 40 tanks and several armoured personnel carriers in Misrata. However, there’s always concern of inadvertently harming civilians in such airstrikes, he said.

“There is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city,” said van Uhm.

Fighting has been intense for the past 10 days and Gadhafi’s forces have shelled Misrata indiscriminately, he said. “The situation on the ground is fluid there, with ground being won and lost by both sides,” van Uhm said at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Human rights activists have said at least 267 people have been killed in Misrata, with the final toll likely higher, and many more people wounded.

Hospitals in Misrata have difficulties conducting surgeries because “the capacity is overstretched and 120 patients need evacuation,” said WHO spokesman Tariq Jasarevic

Supplies have so far reached Misrata by sea, including three ships that delivered a total of some 1,500 tons of supplies such as medicine and food. Two of the ships have evacuated nearly 2,000 people from Misrata, including migrant workers and Libyans, among them wounded people.

UNICEF is sending a ship Wednesday with supplies for 15,000 to 25,000 people, including first aid kits, drinking water and water purification tablets. Misrata has about 300,000 people.

Over the weekend, the U.N. humanitarian chief said she was assured by Libyan authorities that the U.N. would be permitted to visit Misrata and other towns to assess the humanitarian need.

The World Food Program, a U.N. agency, said it has signed an agreement with the Libyan Red Crescent to deliver aid in western Libya. “We received an indication that the government did not have any objection,” said agency spokeswoman Emilia Casella.

WFP trucks are already bringing food to feed 50,000 people for a month, Casella said. The food will be distributed by the Libyan Red Crescent in Tripoli, Zintan, Yefrin, Nalut, Mizda, Al Reiba and Zawiya.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read