NATO airstrikes level Gaddafi's office

NATO warplanes bombed the residence of Muammar Gaddafi here early Monday morning in an attack a government official called an attempt on the Libyan leader's life.

It was unclear where Gaddafi was at the time of the attack, which occurred shortly after midnight. Local residents said several strong blasts were heard in the Libyan capital.

Hours after the latest bombardment, journalists were invited to Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound, where firefighters were still trying to put out the flames.

A press official at the scene said that 45 people were wounded in the attack, among whom 15 were in serious condition, and some others remained unaccounted for.

Gaddafi's office in the compound, where he often held ministerial and other meetings, was destroyed along with another multi-story structure.

Last month, a missile attack by intervening foreign forces hit the same compound, knocking down half of a three-story administration building.

The latest strike came as three members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) called Sunday in Washington for more efforts to oust Gaddafi, including targeting his inner circle with airstrikes.

However, John McCain, ranking member of the SASC, told CNN that the United States should be cautious about directly going after Gaddafi and his inner circle.

"You know, we have tried those things in the past... And it's a little harder than you think it is," said McCain, fresh from a visit to Benghazi, a stronghold of the Libyan opposition forces.

"We don't know exactly where he is. We do have to worry about civilian casualties," he said. "That could turn the Libyan people against us."

Meanwhile, clashes between troops loyal to Gaddafi and rebel forces continued Sunday in the western rebel-held town of Misrata, where dozens were reportedly killed and dozens of others injured over the weekend.

Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said that the army was still withdrawing from Misrata as it had announced, but fired back when the retreating troops were attacked.

The rebels, for their part, said that the Libyan army's withdrawal plan could be a trick crafted to cover up troop movements or to stir up violence between rebels and local residents in nearby towns.

Also on Sunday, Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah met in Kuwait City with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the Libyan rebel Transitional National Council (TNC), who was trying to garner more international support for the rebels.

Following the meeting, the Gulf Arab emirate announced that it would grant the Libyan opposition group 50 million dinars (around 180 million U.S. dollars), which Jalil said would be used to pay the salaries of TNC employees.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Salem Al-Sabah said earlier this month that his country would follow France, Qatar and Italy to recognize the TNC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. But no official confirmation of the recognition has been declared.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for an immediate cease-fire during a telephone conversation with Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi.

"It is necessary to unconditionally comply with the relevant resolutions made by the UN Security Council and ensure an immediate cease-fire," the ministry said, adding that such measures would help "create conditions for a truce."

Lavrov told the Libyan prime minister that Russia stood prepared to work with international organizations to alleviate the humanitarian situation and promote a peaceful settlement in the Northern African country, according to the ministry.

Commenting on reports that Britain would send military officers to Libya to advise rebel forces, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Friday that China disapproves of any act beyond the authorization of the UN Security Council.

"The UN Security Council shoulders the prime responsibility of safeguarding international peace and security... Parties concerned should act in strict accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions," he said.

[Source: Xinhua, Tripoli, 25Apr11]

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