Gaddafi on state TV 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Libyan TV)
TRIPOLI - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi faced tightening military and diplomatic pressure as NATO airstrikes hit Tripoli for the fifth straight night and Russia joined Western powers in demanding his departure.
NATO bombed several sites in the capital on Friday night, Libyan state television and Arab news channel Al Arabiya reported. The Libyan broadcaster said NATO raids also caused "human and material" damage near Mizda, to the south.
Russia joined Western leaders on Friday in urging Gaddafi to step down
and offered to mediate his departure, an important boost to NATO powers
seeking to end his 41-year rule.
It was a striking change in tone from Moscow, which has previously
criticised the 10-week bombing of Libya. NATO intervened under a United
Nations mandate to protect civilians from Gaddafi's forces, but has
effectively placed itself on the side of rebels trying to topple him in a
deadlocked civil war.
NATO said it was preparing to deploy attack helicopters over the Arab
North African state for the first time to add to the pressure on
Gaddafi's forces on the ground.
"There are signs that the momentum against Gaddafi is really building.
So it is right that we are ratcheting up the military, the economic and
the political pressure," British Prime Minister David Cameron said at a
Group of Eight summit in France.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Gaddafi no longer had the right to lead his country.
"The world community does not see him as the leader of Libya," Medvedev
told reporters at the summit, adding that he was sending an envoy to
Libya to begin talks. But he presented no plan to remove Gaddafi from
In Tripoli, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told a news conference
the government had not been officially informed of the Russian position.
"Any decision taken about the political future of Libya belongs to the
Libyans, no one else," he said.
Despite Russia's move, there was scepticism that Gaddafi would agree to
go. "Knowing his state of mind, I don't think he is going to step down,"
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said.
Previous attempts at mediation, by the African Union, Turkey and the
United Nations, have foundered on Gaddafi's refusal to leave and the
rebels' refusal to accept anything less.
Rebel-held Misrata, Libya's third biggest city and scene of some of the
fiercest battles in the conflict, was hit by a second day of heavy
fighting on its western outskirts on Friday.
Doctors at Misrata's hospital said five rebels were killed and more than a dozen wounded.
Gaddafi's forces intensified their attacks too on Zintan, part of a
chain of mountain settlements near Libya's border with Tunisia, where
rebels have been holding off assaults for months.
The rebel administration in the eastern city of Benghazi is trying to
present itself as a credible government-in-waiting. That effort was
helped on Friday when Farhad Omar Bin Guidara, Libya's central bank
governor until he left the country in February, said he was working with
the rebel finance team.