African Union mediators call for an 'end to hostilities' in Libya

African Union mediators on Sunday reiterated their call for an "immediate end to all hostilities" in Libya and proposed a transition period to adopt reforms in the country.

The panel of five African leaders chosen by the African Union to act as mediators decided to press ahead with a "road map" adopted in March, which also calls for "diligent conveying of humanitarian aid" and "dialogue between the Libyan parties."

The panel, headed by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, met Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli and leaders of the rebellion in Benghazi later on Sunday.

South African leader Jacob Zuma, a panel member, said after the meeting that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had accepted the road map, precise details of which were not released.

An earlier statement from the mediators said they intended to propose "inclusive management" of a transition period with the aim of implementing "the political reforms needed to eliminate the causes of the present crisis."

This should be done taking into account "the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for democracy, political reform, justice, peace and security."

Escalation in bombing campaign

In the besieged western city of Misrata, NATO forces have intensified their air strikes after an upsurge of violence.

Libyan rebels said as many as 30 fighters were killed as they beat off a new attack by Gadhafi's forces. Misrata is the last major rebel outpost in the western Libya.

As fighting raged on in the coastal town, a buoyant Gadhafi made his first television appearance in five days. He was seen visiting a school, where he received an enthusiastic welcome.

Rebel spokesman Mustafa Abdulrahman told the Reuters news agency that Saturday's fighting had centered on a road leading to the port at Misrata. Gadhafi's forces seem intent on seizing control of the port.

Abdulrahman praised what he called a positive change from NATO, which apparently destroyed 15 Gadhafi tanks near Misrata. Rebels have complained for days that NATO had been too slow to respond to government assaults.

For its part, NATO has said loyalist forces are hiding weapons in civilian centers, making them difficult to target from the air.

"Pro-Gadhafi forces are using human shields and are parking tanks next to mosques and schools, so it's very hard to pinpoint any of this military hardware without causing civilian casualties," said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.

Lungescu added that the alliance is restricted to rules set by the United Nations Security Council resolution that call for protecting civilians and remaining impartial in the conflict.

Eastern counter-surge

Pro-Gadhafi forces have pushed back a rebel advance in the east of the country. Heavy shelling forced rebel insurgents back towards the town of Ajdabiya, after they had pressed westward halfway to the oil refinery town of Brega, 80 kilometers away.

Western officials have acknowledged that their air power will not be enough to help the rag-tag rebels overthrow Gadhafi by force and they are now emphasizing a political solution.

But a rebel spokesman rejected a negotiated outcome.

"There is no other solution than the military solution, because this dictator's language is annihilation, and people who speak this language only understand this language," spokesman Ahmad Bani told Al Jazeera television.

[Source: AFP, AP, Reuters, Deutsche Welle, 10Apr11]

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