Libyan gov't reportedly agrees to cease fire, NATO assumes partial command

18:45, March 26, 2011      

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The African Union (AU) says Libya has agreed to halt military action and implement political reforms to end the current crisis.

Meanwhile, NATO has taken command and control from the United States of two aspects of the ongoing multinational intervention in Libya, which saw coalition warplanes bomb Libyan targets on Friday for the seventh straight day.

Jean Ping, chairperson of the AU Commission, said late Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that a Libyan government delegation has accepted a five-point road map formulated by a high-level AU ad hoc committee.

The delegation, meanwhile, said Libya is committed to a cease-fire.

The AU proposal, among other things, demands the protection of civilians and the cessation of hostilities, and the implementation of reforms necessary to meet the aspirations of the Libyan people.

"We had a meeting with the delegation sent by Libyan authorities... We have received the full agreement... They already sent us a written agreement, but they have confirmed orally to the panel that they are committed to the proposal," Ping said.

Ping said that the African bloc would monitor implementation of the plan.

"We will go to implement this cease-fire decision," Ping said. "We are going to make it effective with a mechanism of monitoring of control."

In addition to the Libyan delegation, led by Speaker Ahmed Zouni of the Libyan People's Congress, representatives of the Libyan rebels have also been invited to Addis Ababa in an AU effort to mediate a settlement.

Meanwhile in Washington, Bill Gortney, director of the U.S. Joint Staff, said that the United States is transferring command and control of the Libya mission to its partners.

NATO has already taken over the responsibilities of ensuring the UN-imposed arms embargo on Libya at the Mediterranean Sea and patrolling Libyan airspace to enforce the UN-endorsed no-fly zone, he said.

However, offensive aspects of the operation are still the charge of the United States, and handover details have yet to be determined, Gortney said.

Some NATO members have so far refused to give the alliance, in which each member has veto power, the green light to participate in military strikes in Libya.

After the United States relinquishes all command responsibilities, it will continue to play a supporting role in the mission, including aerial refueling, surveillance and warning capability, Gortney said.

Also on Friday, coalition forces launched their latest round of air strikes against Libyan targets since the military intervention started a week ago.

Gortney said that the coalition fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles during the past 24 hours and that the raids targeted Libyan government ground forces outside the rebel-held town of Ajdabiya and command and control facilities around Tripoli.

The attacks have reduced Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's ability to exercise command over ground forces, he said.

At the same time, Qatari warplanes flew their initial sorties over Libya on Friday, the first non-Western military flights in support of the operation.

Another Arab state, the United Arab Emirates, has also decided to send aircraft to join the campaign.

As the unrest persists, tens of thousands of people have been internally displaced, particularly in eastern Libya, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said Friday in Vienna.

Citing sources from the international medical corps in the troubled Northern African country, the watchdog said that up to 20,000 people have taken refuge in Al Butwen, a small town east of Ajdabiya, and another 5,000 are homeless in the coastal town of Derna.

Additionally, more are fleeing to other countries, and the outflow of refugees has remained steady over the past few days, according to the UNHCR, which said that more than 350,000 people had left Libya as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a Libyan health ministry official said Friday in Tripoli that coalition strikes on Libya have killed at least 114 people.

Amid growing international concerns about the crisis, the intervening countries are expected to hold a meeting in London next week to provide political direction for the operation, which some said would last for months.

Also in Washington, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will give a speech on Monday explaining his decision-making on the Libyan operation following complaints of some lawmakers.

Source: Xinhua

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