Clinton slams Libya forces' 'brutal attacks' on civilians

April 14, 2011 03:25

Following reports of "renewed atrocities," US secretary of state says Gaddafi forces apparently trying to starve opposition.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks

Hilary Clinton Libya background 311. (photo credit:REUTERS/Toby Melville)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday condemned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in what she called continued "brutal attacks" by his forces on Libyan civilians.

Her comments came after reports of "renewed atrocities," including the firing of mortar and artillery rounds into residential areas of Misrata.

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Clinton said in a statement that Gaddafi's forces have "reportedly destroyed crucial food supply warehouses in an apparent bid to starve them into submission."

"In recent days, we have received disturbing reports of renewed atrocities conducted by Gaddafi's forces," Clinton said.

Also on Wednesday, a group of Western powers and Middle Eastern states called for the first time for Gaddafi to step aside, but NATO countries squabbled publicly over stepping up air strikes to help topple him. In a victory for Britain and France, which are leading the air campaign in Libya and have pushed for an unequivocal call for regime change, the "contact group" of European and Middle Eastern nations, plus the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union, said Gaddafi must go.

"Gaddafi and his regime has lost all legitimacy and he must leave power allowing the Libyan people to determine their future," a final statement obtained by Reuters said.

It also said the rebels' national council, "in contrast with the current regime ... is a legitimate interlocutor, representing the aspirations of the Libyan people".

The wording was much tougher than at a conference two weeks ago and gave stronger backing to insurgents fighting to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule. Participants would work on a financial mechanism to help rebels run the eastern region they control.

The group also agreed to provide "material support" for the rebels. Although the statement did not give details, diplomats said some nations might interpret this as supplying arms -- a key request of the outgunned insurgents.

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