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NATO Warplanes Hit Qadhafi’s Command Centers

May 29, 2011


Arab News, May 29, 2011 01:28


NATO warplanes struck Muammar Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli on Saturday, as the new rebel administration warned it was fast running out of money because countries that promised financial aid have not come through.

Ali Tarhouni, the rebel finance minister, complained that many countries that pledged aid have instead sent a string of businessmen looking for contracts from the oil-rich country.

“They are very vocal in terms of (offering financial) help but all that we have seen is that they are ... looking for business,” Tarhouni said on Saturday.

Tarhouni recently returned to Benghazi from a trip overseas to drum up aid that included a visit to Rome where the 22-nation Contract Group on Libya promised to set up a fund to speedily help finance the rebel administration.

“I think even our friends do not understand the urgency of the situation. Either they don’t understand, or they don’t care,” Tarhouni said.

Tarhouni also praised France, which was the driving force behind the UN no-fly zone.

But “other than that, everybody is just talking,” he said. “So far, nothing has come through and I am fast running out of cash.”

Tarhouni emphasized that the rebels’ National Transitional Council will be signing no long-term contracts. While the rebel administration will honor previously signed contracts, Tarhouni indicated a new democratically elected government might do otherwise.

Meanwhile, nearly two dozen Libyan soldiers, including a colonel and other officers, fled their country in two small boats and took refuge in neighboring Tunisia, where thousands fleeing the fighting in Libya have taken refuge.

A person who met with some of them says they fled rebel-held Misrata, arriving at Ketf port, near Ben Guerdane, on the Tunisian side of the border. The person who met with them Saturday asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. The group turned over their weapons to the Tunisian Army.

The official TAP news agency said 22 military, some ranking officers, arrived Friday in boats carrying a dozen civilians, two with bullet wounds.

Three dissident officers from Muammar Qaddafi’s army reached Tunisia in a boat May 15.

Also Saturday, an alliance spokesman said NATO fighter jets struck Qaddafi’s Bab Al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli in the early hours Saturday. He said the Libyan leader was not a target and there was no way to know if he was there at the time of the attack.

The strike sent a shuddering boom through Tripoli and rattled windows. Such a daylight attack is fairly unusual since NATO began its aerial attacks over Libya three months ago.

Airstrikes over the past week have pounded the large barracks area that lies close to the Qaddafi compound. The same compound was badly damaged by US warplanes 25 years ago in response to a bombing that had killed two US servicemen at a German disco.

Saturday’s airstrike came after leaders at a summit of the Group of Eight world powers reiterated that Qaddafi had to leave power.

Russia, a leading critic of the NATO bombing campaign and one-time Qaddafi ally offered to mediate a deal for the Libyan leader to leave the country.

Speaking at the summit in Deauville, France, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said Friday he was sending an envoy to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi immediately to start negotiating, and that talks with the Libyan government could take place later.

National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said Saturday the rebels would accept negotiations led by anyone willing to find a solution — as long as it requires the departure of Qaddafi and his sons.

Speaking to reporters in Benghazi, Abdul-Jalil said the transition to democracy would take at most one year after Qaddafi’s removal from power. He also said the council had decided to ban all current members “from running for any positions in the transitional period following the fall of Qaddafi.” ___

Faul reported from Benghazi. Bouazza Ben Bouazza contributed from Tunis, Tunisia.

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