Uncertainties overshadow peace prospects in Libya, Syria, Yemen

08:46, May 25, 2011      

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As Libyan government troops and rebel forces are still locked in a seesaw battle and NATO air raids continue, uncertainties begin to cloud over peace prospects in Syria and Yemen.

<strong>LIBYA IN A STALEMATE</strong>

Rebels bent on ousting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had hoped their battle with government forces could be just a walkover, by taking advantage of NATO's superior air power. However, as the rebels are still in a tug-of-war with pro-Gaddafi forces, their dreams of a swift victory have been shattered.

Libyan government forces are now in tight control of the North African country's capital Tripoli and western regions. Rebels claimed last week they had taken over Libya's third largest city of Misrata. Sources close to the rebels told Xinhua that the duration of the war now rests on the strength of the opposition in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, NATO's air raids began to target Gaddafi's warships. NATO said in a statement Friday its fighter jets attacked eight warships docked at the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte.

"Overnight, NATO aircraft hit pro-Gaddafi warships, striking eight vessels," said Rear Admiral Russell Harding, deputy commander of NATO's Libya operations.

NATO said Gaddafi's forces had been laying mines at ports and trying to disrupt humanitarian aid.

Also on Friday, the building housing Libya's External Security agency in Tripoli was bombed.

Facing the stalemate, NATO chief Fogh Rasmussen said last Thursday the Western military alliance had no plans to send in ground troops.

Visiting rebels' stronghold of Bengazi, EU high representative for foreign and security policy Catherine Ashton on Sunday opened the EU office in Benghazi, in a show of support for the opposition.

"By opening the office of the European Union, I bring the commitment of the 27 EU member states and all of the institutions in support of the people in Benghazi and the people of Libya, for us to support you in the future that you wish to see in your country," Ashton added.

She also pledged to offer long-term support to the Libyan opposition and reiterated that Gaddafi must relinquish his powers.

Besides military and diplomatic pressure on Gaddafi to end his 42-year rule, legal prosecution against the leader was also initiated.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested an arrest warrant for Gaddafi last Monday.

Two other arrest warrants were also issued for his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Al-Sanousi, Libya's intelligence chief, for "war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor.

The Libyan government denounced the warrant, saying the court is a creation of the West for prosecuting African leaders.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the ICC was "dependent on media reports to evaluate the situation in Libya," adding that the court's conclusion was "incoherent."

<strong>SANCTIONS AGAINST SYRIA</strong>

The European Union (EU) on Monday strengthened the restrictive measures against Syrian authorities, and President Bashar al-Assad appeared for the first time on the sanctions list.

"The Council has decided to further strengthen these restrictive measures by designating additional persons, including at the highest level of leadership," said an EU statement.

The EU also decided to suspend all preparations related to new bilateral cooperation programs with the Syrian authorities and requested the European Investment Bank not to approve new financing operations in Syria for the time being.

An official Syrian source Monday denounced the EU sanctions against President al-Assad and other top officials, saying the punitive measures were aimed at interfering in Syria's internal affairs and undermining its security and stability, according to the official SANA news agency.

"Britain and France played an important role in approving these sanctions, without considering the security and the interests of the people of Syria," SANA quoted the source as saying.
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(Editor:石希)

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