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UN chief warns of casualties in Libya

Xinhua | Updated: 2011-08-12 15:47

UN chief warns of casualties in Libya
A house lies in rubble after a NATO airstrike near the village of Shal Ghouda in western Libya, August 11, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

BENGHAZI, Libya - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced concern at rising civilian casualties in Libya and called for a political solution to end the conflict.

His call came as rebels claimed a major victory after seizing part of the nothern oil town of Brega.

In a statement released by Ban's spokesperson, the UN chief said he was "deeply concerned by reports of the unacceptably large number of civilian casualties as a result of the conflict in Libya." However, the statement gave no figures on the number of casualities from the six-month conflict.

The statement called on "all parties to exercise extreme caution" to "minimize any further loss of civilian life."

Ban reaffirmed his strongly held belief that "there can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis."

"A ceasefire that is linked to a political process which would meet the aspirations of the Libyan people, is the only viable means to achieving peace and security in Libya," the statement said.

The war between the Libyan government and rebels broke out in February  after a nationwide protest calling for the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Fighting on the ground has remained fierce since, but rebels now have seized large areas of the North African state.

The rebels' latest success in Brega ended weeks of stalemate in the east of the country.

Rebels claim they have captured the residential districts of the town but Gaddafi's forces still hold the western parts where the oil facilities are located.

Brega has been the scene of months of fighting between Gaddafi forces and the rebels, with both determined to control the strategic oil hub.

The port is strategically important not only for its refinery, port, population size and industrial complexes but also because it links to the rebel-held eastern city of Ajdabiya.

On the western front, the rebels have been advancing rapidly. They reached the village of Bir Shuaib, which lies 50 km west of the country's capital and Gaddafi stronghold, Tripoli.

The rebels in the west are poorly armed and operate separately in different towns but, when it comes to major operations, they can muster thousands of fighters.

Gaddafi, however, has retained a firm grip of the capital and military victory for either side still seems a long way off.


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