Libya

Secretary-General urges immediate end to attacks against civilians

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Libyan authorities must stop attacking civilians during their conflict with opposition groups, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told the country’s Prime Minister, calling for an immediate and verifiable ceasefire so that humanitarian workers can reach people in need.

Speaking by telephone last night with Al Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi, Mr. Ban told the Libyan official that there must be negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict that erupted in February after protests emerged against the long-standing regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi.

“The Prime Minister agreed to receive my Special Envoy, Mr. [Abdel Elah] Al-Khatib, and I have instructed him to travel to Tripoli as soon as possible,” Mr. Ban told a press conference in Geneva today.

He said he was particularly concerned by reports of people fleeing the fighting in Libya losing their lives at sea.

“I ask patrol vessels in the Mediterranean not to wait for distress signals to offer help. Any boat leaving Libya should be considered a boat in need of assistance and protection.”

Mr. Ban’s comments echo those of other senior UN officials who have voiced concern about the fighting in the North African nation and the lives lost at sea, and urged the setting up of a ceasefire.

He noted that Mr. Al-Mahmoudi told him that the Libyan Government was willing to agree to an immediate ceasefire, along with a monitoring team to be established jointly by the UN and the African Union.

“But first and foremost, there should be an end of fighting in Misrata and elsewhere,” the Secretary-General said, referring to the besieged city that has experienced some of the most intense fighting of the conflict.

“Then we will continue. We will be able to provide humanitarian assistance and in parallel we can continue our political dialogue with the regime there. My Special Envoy has visited six times and he is going to be there again. I am doing my best efforts in close coordination with the African Union and other coalition forces.”