14 Apr 2011

Libya: Koussa’s sanctions lifted as fighting intensifies

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussas EU sanctions have been removed and his assets unfrozen, as a divided NATO bombard Tripoli and a defiant Gaddafi attacks Misrata.

Air strikes in Brega (March 3rd, Reuters)

Moussa Koussa, previously one of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s closest aides, fled the country to Britain last month.

The Treasury deleted Koussa from its EU financial sanctions list, removing a freeze on his assets after he was reportedly given a six month visa which gave him “discretionary leave to remain”.

Meanwhile in Tripoli Libyan government forces fired anti-aircraft guns at NATO planes after four blasts were heard in the city. A number of casualties have been reported.

In Misrata – the only major stronghold in the west of the country – rebels warned of an impending “massacre” unless NATO steps up its air campaign in the city.

“They fired Grads at a residential area called Kasr Ahmad near the port this morning. They fired at least 80 rockets on that area,” Rebel spokesman Abdelbasset Abu Mzereiq told reporters.

Read More: a journey into Libya

He said at least 23 civilians had died on Thursday and five civilians were killed on Wednesday during heavy shelling by Gaddafi loyalists.

NATO: not enough planes

NATO said it is still short of about 10 aircraft a day for strikes. However, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “We are committed to provide all necessary resources and maximum operational flexibility within our mandate.

“A high operational tempo against legitimate targets will be maintained,” he told a news conference at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

He said NATO would exert pressure for as long as necessary and until the forces of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi halted attacks on civilians and withdrew.

Read more: Libya war special report

France and Britain want more countries involved but Turkey and Germany are opposed to the mission. Only six out of NATO’s 28 members are conducting air strikes.

NATO members are also divided over meeting a rebel request for weapons. Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said this was not allowed under the U.N. resolution authorising military action but other nations suggested it could be possible.

The rebels said they were in talks with “friendly” countries to obtain arms: “I don’t think there will be a problem getting weapons,” national council spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told reporters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Diplomatic activity

Outside of NATO, the five so-called BRICS emerging powers – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – also expressed misgivings about NATO air strikes after talks in China and urged an end to the two-month conflict.

Amid a flurry of international diplomacy over Libya, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, EU Foreign Policy Representative Catherine Ashton, Head of the Arab League Amr Moussa, and officials from the African Union and Organisation of the Islamic Conference discussed the war at a meeting in Cairo.

Ban expressed grave concern over the escalation of violence in Libya and called for a ceasefire and the relief of besieged cities. The longer fighting went on, the more difficult a political solution would be, he said.