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Libyan army to withdraw from Misurata

Pro-Gaddafi troops will withdraw from the besieged rebel-held city of Misurata and leave it to local tribes to resolve the conflict either through "force or negotiations", the Libyan government has said, as NATO carried out more air strikes on Tripoli killing three people.

world Updated: Apr 23, 2011 11:18 IST

Pro-Gaddafi troops will withdraw from the besieged rebel-held city of Misurata and leave it to local tribes to resolve the conflict either through "force or negotiations", the Libyan government has said, as NATO carried out more air strikes on Tripoli killing three people.

"The situation in Misurata will be dealt with by the tribes around Misurata and Misurata's residents and not by the Libyan army," Khaled Kaim, Libya's deputy foreign minister, told reporters late Friday night.

"We will leave the tribes around Misurata and Misurata's people to deal with the situation, either using force or negotiations," he said.

Kaim said the Libyan army had been given an "ultimatum" to stop the rebellion in the western port city, 200 km east of the capital Tripoli.

"There was an ultimatum to the Libyan army: if they cannot solve the problem in Misurata, then the people from (the neighbouring towns of) Zliten, Tarhuna, Bani Walid and Tawargha will move in and they will talk to the rebels. If they don't surrender, then they will engage them in a fight," he was quoted as saying by Al-Jazeera.

Hours after the announcement of a shift in tactics in Misurata by forces of Muammar Gaddafi, NATO bombs struck what appeared to be a bunker near his compound in central Tripoli.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said three people were killed by the "very powerful explosion" in a car park near Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound.

The popular revolt against 68-year-old Gaddafi - inspired by similar uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia - began in February and a UN mandate later sanctioned air strikes against Libyan forces to protect civilians. NATO took control of the operations on March 31.

Powerful US Senator John McCain, who visited the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, sought international recognition for the Libyan opposition, saying "these brave fighters" needed "every appropriate" means of assistance to increase pressure on Gaddafi and his loyalists.

"I would encourage every nation, especially the United States, to recognise the Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people. They've earned this right, and Gaddafi has forfeited it by waging war on his own people," McCain told a news conference in Benghazi.