UN aid chief: If Libya’s fighting continues, the country will run out of food

(csmonitor.com) Fighting, particularly in Misratah, has interrupted the supply lines that provide Libya with food, fuel, and other essentials. Meanwhile, Tripoli sees heaviest bombings in weeks.

he United Nations aid chief has called for a pause in fighting in Libya to provide a window of time to address dire supply shortages.

The shortages, which could soon create a humanitarian crisis, are partly a result of sanctions that have disrupted the country’s supply lines as well as “paralyzing” fighting, said Valerie Amos, the UN aid chief. Libya’s food supply will only last a couple more months, BBC reports.

Meanwhile, NATO bombed Tripoli Tuesday morning in its heaviest air campaign against the capital city in weeks. The strikes hit at least four sites in Tripoli, possibly including the compound where the family of leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi lives, according to the Associated Press.

One of the buildings hit was used by the military intelligence agency, according to local residents, and another was used by parliament members as a research library.

Action has also escalated in the country’s rebel-held east, where fighting has been stalled for several weeks. Rebels have unsuccessfully attempted to push on from outside Ajdabiya to Brega, a town slightly farther west. On Monday, there were reports of fighting outside Ajdabiya. Rebels withdrew from the front line later that day on NATO’s orders because NATO was planning to stage airstrikes on Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, according to the AP.

A skirmish south of Ajdabiya during the weekend and relative quiet in the east has rebels worried that Qaddafi’s troops are moving south now, only to surprise rebels from the east again later near the Egyptian border, Reuters reports.

Amid accusations that NATO has allowed Libya’s conflict to stall, NATO Sec. Gen. Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance was “making progress” and that it had eliminated much of Qadaffi’s military power. But he told CNN “it’s hard to imagine an end to the violence as long as Qaddafi remains in power.”

General Rasmussen said Qaddafi and his regime “have no future,” although NATO still insists that the goal of the NATO operation in Libya is not regime change.

The stalemate is at least partially a result of mismatched technological capabilities. The use of NATO planes has “created a tactical stalemate: The rebels have inadequate ground capabilities but can count on some of the planet’s most technologically advanced air weapons systems, while Qaddafi’s men boast superior ground troops but have no air resources,” the Los Angeles Times notes.

Ms. Amos told the UN Security Council that eastern Libya has only about two months left of food, medicine, and other crucial commodities and western Libya has only three month’s worth, CNN reported. Desalination plants may soon run out of the fuel.

The siege on the port city of Misratah in western Libya has been at the center of supply concerns, Amos said. The fighting has prevented aid ships from docking in the city, and at least 150 Libyans are waiting to be evacuated.

The AP reported that an aid ship carrying medical supplies and baby food was able to dock on Monday in Misratah’s port, the first since Wednesday, although shelling on certain parts of the city continued Monday. The ship that docked Wednesday was fired on with rockets. A rocket attack Saturday set fire to the city’s main fuel depot, a key supply point for vehicles, ships, and generators.

“We are in dire need for humanitarian and medical supplies. We also need arms and ammunition for self-defense,” said one Misratah resident. “We have no way to get this as long as the port is not secure.”

By Ariel Zirulnick

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2011/0510/UN-aid-chief-If-Libya-s-fighting-continues-the-country-will-run-out-of-food

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