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Libyan Rebels Battle Gadhafi’s Forces in Misrata as NATO Debates Strategy

April 13, 2011 at 6:25 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Now an update on the unresolved standoff in Libya.

NATO nations and others met today in Doha, Qatar, debating what any or all of them should do to help the rebels still attempting to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.

As they debated, fighting continued around Misrata, the only western Libyan city still partly in rebel hands.

We start with a report from Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN MILLER: Pinned down by NATO warplanes, Gadhafi’s army remains a lethal force in the city of Misrata, rebels here and further east desperate for NATO to intensify attacks on Libyan government forces to tip the balance in their favor.

Yesterday, NATO airstrikes destroyed 12 tanks in Misrata, this attack by British Typhoon fighter bombers. NATO’s now clocked up more than 800 strike sorties, but Britain and France insisting that more muscle is needed to break the military deadlock.

NATO is divided on this matter. Today’s meeting in Qatar exposed the rifts, although there’s broad consensus that Libya’s political future should not include Gadhafi.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: Any viable cease-fire, any viable peaceful future for Libya must involve the departure of Col. Gadhafi.

JONATHAN MILLER: One proposal, from Italy, calls for arming Libya’s rebels through a fund created from the regime’s frozen assets. Germany questioned the legality of such a move, though, suggesting it would go beyond the U.N. mandate.

On Libya’s eastern front, rebels continue to exchange rocket fire with Gadhafi’s forces. There’s satisfaction at the international recognition accorded in Qatar to the rebel National Council. Make no mistake, though, there are still many in this divided country who do support Gadhafi. Although, after six long weeks, the number of his acolytes still chanting in Tripoli’s Green Square is dwindling. They don’t like the news from the tiny emirate of Qatar.

If any plan hatched in Doha goes so far as to create a fund to arm the rebels using Libyan sovereign assets, it will incense the Tripoli regime. Tonight, as the Qatar conference ended rather inconclusively, NATO warplanes staged a daylight bombing raid on a munitions dump on the outskirts of the capital.