Libyan Civilian Casualties Concern U.N.

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TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 12 (UPI) — All sides must take caution to ensure Libyan civilian deaths are minimized as pro- and anti-government forces fight, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Ban also said “a cease-fire linked to a political process” is the only practicable way to achieve peace in the country ripped by violence as pro-democracy rebels seek to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power, Voice of America reported Friday.

Ban, in a statement Thursday, urged all sides to “exercise extreme caution in their actions, in order to minimize any further loss of civilian life.”

NATO has been conducting airstrikes against Gadhafi in March. Earlier this week, the head of the U.N. cultural agency criticized NATO airstrikes last month against Libyan state television facilities in which three people died. NATO officials defended the strike, saying the broadcasts were used to incite attacks, and that the underlying U.N. Security Council resolution requires them to use “all necessary” measures to protect civilians.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported divisions were emerging within the Gadhafi regime after senior government members distanced themselves from Gadhafi family plans to fashion a peace agreement.

Gadhafi’s son Saif told The New York Times last week he was in discussions with an Islamic leader of the opposition to cement an alliance against Libyan liberals.

“Mr. Saif has his point of view but what matters is what the people of Libya want,” Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. “The Libyan government is coherent, it has one official position. … The political system is what gives us the power to deal with this situation.”

He also described the NATO airstrike campaign as an “unwanted war” and claimed the opposition National Transitional Council has been hamstrung by its fundamentalist ties.

“Our advice to NATO is that their alliance with these Islamist groups will not serve their interests,” Mahmudi said.

Abdul-Ati Obeidi, Libya’s foreign minister, is leading attempts to garner international support for a tribal-led national conference that would supersede the NTC in a political process, The Guardian said.

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