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Monday, February 28, 2011

France sending aid planes to Libya's Benghazi

GENEVA – France announced it is sending two planes with humanitarian aid to Libya's opposition stronghold of Benghazi on Monday, in what its prime minister described as the start of a "massive operation" to push Moammar Gadhafi from power.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon spoke in Paris as foreign ministers from around the world, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, gathered in Geneva to coordinate action against Gadhafi's regime.

Fillon said the planes would leave "in a few hours" for Benghazi with doctors, nurses, medicines and medical equipment. "It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories," he said on RTL radio.

The Obama administration has also declared it stood ready to aid Libyans seeking to oust their longtime leader — and Clinton came to Geneva to make the administration's case for stronger action against Gadhafi.

"We want him to leave and we want him to end his regime and call off the mercenaries and those troops that remain loyal to him," Clinton told reporters a day after President Barack Obama branded Gadhafi an illegitimate ruler who must leave power immediately. "How he manages that is obviously up to him and to his family."

France's government is studying "all solutions to make it so that Colonel Gadhafi understands that he should go, that he should leave power," Fillon said Monday. Military options and no-fly zones are among the options under study, he said.

Fillon did not say whether the aid planes could also take refugees out of Libya, as anti-government rebels deployed tanks and anti-aircraft weapons to brace for an attack by troops loyal to Gadhafi.

Over the weekend, British and German military planes swooped into Libya's desert, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites. Tens of thousands of foreigners have been evacuated from Libya in the past week but others are still stuck in Tripoli by bad weather and red tape.

The secret military missions into the turbulent North Africa country signaled the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya's territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens.

The U.N.'s top human rights official, meanwhile, appealed to all nations Monday to back the popular revolts shaking the Arab world — and to do so quickly, and in tangible ways, before decades-long autocratic regimes like those of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi can regain their footing.

"The international community bears the great responsibility of extending its support in words and deeds to assist such indispensable reforms," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council's monthlong session. "It must do so with dispatch and firmness."

"For the sake of humanity, go now!" exhorted Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, comparing Gadhafi's actions to the genocides in Rwanda, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and Sudan's Darfur region.

Pillay set the tone by noting that the session was opening amid historic turbulent times as massive popular movements are sweeping through Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and elsewhere. She urged the world's nations to help protesters quickly cement new changes, before formerly entrenched regimes or "new threats" emerge to human rights and democracy.

"Their uproar made clear that despair was not acquiescence," she said. "Protesters have voiced concern over the fact that the international community has all too often prioritized the stability of the political status quo and unhampered trade in natural resources over human rights."

U.N. General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, whose 192-nation world body is poised to decide on an unprecedented suspension of Libya from the Human Rights Council next week, encouraged all "human rights defenders who frequently act in great danger."

Swiss President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey condemned Libya's extra-judicial killings and said "the information that has been provided to us leads us to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed."

source: Yahoo News

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