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Leaders call for more NATO strikes as Gadhafi forces pummel Misrata

By the CNN Wire Staff
Rebel fighters celebrate after firing powerful rockets toward Libyan Army positions near Ajdabiyah April 11, 2011.
Rebel fighters celebrate after firing powerful rockets toward Libyan Army positions near Ajdabiyah April 11, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Leading rebel official calls on international community to help Libyan civilians
  • At least 10 killed in Misrata shelling, doctor says
  • France and Britain call for intensified NATO attacks
  • Ex-Foreign Minister Koussa flies to Qatar ahead of an international meeting

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Moammar Gadhafi's military machine pounded the western city of Misrata again Tuesday as France and Britain called for beefed-up NATO airstrikes to stop such attacks on the Libyan people.

Witnesses reported heavy shelling in central Misrata, besieged for weeks and the scene of some of the worst fighting in the Libyan conflict.

At least 10 people were killed and 30 others wounded in the heavy shelling, a doctor operating in two central clinics told CNN. The doctor, identified only as Dr. Hakim for safety reasons, said medical teams are exhausted from treating the wounded.

Rebel fighter Moaath al-Misrati told CNN the shelling came after rebels killed several of Gadhafi's snipers. "We are expecting a ground offensive by the Gadhafi forces any time now," he said.

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The witnesses said all telephone communications, including mobile service, had been cut.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe both called Tuesday for NATO to get more aggressive in Libya, and a rebel leader issued a plea for the international community to carry out the U.N. Security Council resolution of March 17, which calls for "all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack" in the North African country.

Hague told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, that "a huge amount has been achieved in Libya, but clearly there is more to be done."

Juppe said NATO needs to fully embrace the role it accepted -- to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi's forces.

"NATO wanted to take charge of the military operations, we accepted it," Juppe said on France Info radio. "It has to carry out its role today, which means to prevent Gadhafi from using heavy weapons to bombard the population."

Specifically, Juppe mentioned the attacks on Misrata, where on Monday at least five civilians -- including two toddlers, a 75-year-old man and an Algerian worker -- were killed and more than 20 people wounded in mortar attacks, according to witnesses.

In Benghazi, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, the deputy chairman of the Transitional National Council, issued an "urgent statement" calling on the international community "to intervene and stop the massacres that Gadhafi promised in Misrata, and to implement the UN resolution in any possible means."

Ghoga told CNN that the opposition has submitted a wish list of military equipment to Qatar and France. He said the list was compiled by rebel military leaders and he didn't know exactly what was being requested.

Last week, when asked by CNN's Reza Sayah which countries were providing rebels with weapons and training, Ghoga said, "We are in communication with our brothers in Qatar and also with our brothers in the Egyptian republic and with our friends in Italy and France." He indicated in the interview that the weapons were on their way to Libya.

Meanwhile, Libya's most high-profile defector flew from Britain to Qatar Tuesday for talks on how to break the deadly impasse in his nation.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa flew to the Qatari capital, Doha, to meet with government officials and Libyan opposition leaders ahead of the first meeting Wednesday of the Libya Contact Group, formed in London last month and charged with implementing United Nations resolutions. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also attend.

In a news conference in Benghazi, Ghoga did not explicity reject the idea of opposition leaders' meeting with Koussa in Doha, but said such a meeting was "not on the agenda."

In an earlier interview with the BBC, Koussa had expressed concern that the situation in Libya was spiraling downward into a grinding war, in the mold of the conflict in Somalia.

Koussa, who fled Libya last month and sought safe haven in Britain after resigning his post in Gadhafi's regime, urged all parties to avoid plunging Libya into a civil war.

"This will lead to (much bloodshed), and Libya will be a new Somalia," Koussa told the BBC.

Koussa, a longtime Gadhafi confidant and a former Libyan intelligence chief, also told BBC, "The solution in Libya will come from the Libyans themselves through discussion and democratic dialogue."

did not explicitly reject the idea of meeting with Libya's held a press conference on Tuesday and when asked if the opposition would be open to a meeting with Moussa Koussa - Libya's former Foreign Minister - in Doha, the Deputy Chairman of the Transitional National Council did not explicitly reject the idea. He told reporters a meeting with Moussa Koussa in Doha "was not on the agenda."

An African Union attempt at forging peace fell flat when Ghoga and fellow rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil rejected it on grounds that it did not provide any solutions to violence against the Libyan people.

Gadhafi had agreed in principle to stop hostilities and allow outside forces to help keep the peace, his government and African Union mediators said Monday in a joint statement after a meeting in Tripoli.

The African Union plan announced Monday did not address whether Gadhafi will step down, nor is it binding. According to the memorandum detailed by Ramtane Lamara, the African Union's commissioner for peace and security, the plan had four elements:

-- An immediate end to all fighting

-- Libyan authorities' cooperation "to facilitate the diligent delivery of humanitarian assistance"

-- The protection of foreign nationals in Libya

-- The start of talks involving various Libyan authorities, including opposition figures, with the aim of setting up "an inclusive transition period" to adopt and implement "political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Washington is still "waiting to get a full readout" from participants in the African Union's peace mission in Libya.

"We've made it very clear that we want to see a cease-fire," Clinton said. But she said there also must be, among other things, a resumption of water, electricity and other services to Libyan cities that have been "brutalized by Gadhafi's forces."

She also reiterated the U.S. position that Gadhafi needs to step down from power.

Ghoga, the Transitional National Council's deputy chairman, on Tuesday said rebel forces were "fighting in the direction of Brega" from the western gate of the "completely liberated" city of Ajdabiya.

"Gadhafi's forces still have some elements in Brega," he told reporters. "We added more security personnel to protect the oil fields in the city because the regime is trying to strand us economically."

"The situation in Tripoli is very dire," Ghoga continued. He said fuel and food there were depleted "because all fuel is being for the Gadhafi forces' need(s)."

Ghoga also claimed that "thousands of demonstrators" opposing the regime were arrested in the capital and that "a large number of them were executed in the Saladin military academy," but didn't provide further details. CNN could not independently confirm those claims.

He added that on Monday, "there was a massive demonstration in Fashloum in Tripoli, and the majority were hiding their faces, fearing arrest."

CNN's Amir Ahmed, Reza Sayah and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report

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