UNITED NATIONS - The UN chief on Sunday demanded an end to "indiscriminate" attacks against civilians in Libya and warned Tripoli that anyone who violates international law will be brought to justice.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed former Foreign Minister of Jordan, Abdelilah Al-Khatib, as his special envoy to Libya "to undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region on the immediate humanitarian situation," Ban's press office said.

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The statement added that Ban spoke with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa on Sunday and told him that Tripoli must "uphold their responsibility to protect the country's citizens and to heed the Libyan people's legitimate aspirations to live in dignity and peace."

Ban and Kusa agreed that the United Nations would immediately dispatch a team to Tripoli to assess the humanitarian situation in Libya.

Troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi launched counter-offensives against rebel-held towns on Sunday, increasing fears that Libya is heading for a protracted civil war rather than the swift revolutions seen in Tunisia and Egypt.

"He [Ban] notes that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, and calls for an immediate halt to the government's disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets," the statement said.

"He stresses that those who violate international humanitarian law or commit grave crimes must be held accountable," it added.

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Ban appealed to the Libyan government to call an end to the hostilities and urged it to comply fully with a UN Security Council sanctions resolution adopted a week ago.

That resolution called for an end to the violence and imposed UN sanctions on Qaddafi, his family and inner circle. It also referred the violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrators to the International Criminal Court.

"He [Ban] urged the authorities in Tripoli to respect the human rights of all the country's people, and to lift restrictions on the media," the statement said.