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Turkey offers Gaddafi a way out

Turkey offered Muammar Gaddafi a way out of Libya on Saturday with guarantees of safe passage to wherever he wants to go as fresh NATO air strikes hit Tripoli. The Libyan leader has yet to respond to the offer.


AFP - Turkey said it has offered Moamer Kadhafi guarantees to leave Libya but has yet to receive a reply, as rebels reported his forces killed 20 people in a fierce assault on Misrata.

Fresh NATO-led strikes sent up plumes of smoke Friday in Tripoli, where Kadhafi has his residence, but US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned the air war on the strongman's forces could be in peril because of military shortcomings.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government had offered exit "guarantees" to the embattled Libyan leader, whom rebels have been trying to oust since February following a bloody crackdown on pro-reform protests.

Erdogan on Gaddafi

Kadhafi "has no other option than to leave Libya -- with a guarantee to be given to him," Erdogan said on NTV television.

"We have given him this guarantee. We have told him we will help him to be sent wherever he wants to go," he added, without elaborating.

"Depending on the reply we will get from him, we will take up the issue with our (NATO) allies, but unfortunately we have received no reply so far."

His comments came after a day of deadly fighting near the port city of Misrata, the rebels' most significant enclave in western Libya, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Tripoli.

Kadhafi's forces had bombarded the Dafnia area on Misrata's outskirts with Grad rockets, heavy artillery and tank shells, a rebel said.

"Twenty people, both civilians and rebels, were killed and more than 80 wounded," in the sector, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Misrata city centre, he added.

But they had beaten back an attack by loyalist troops, leaving "dead and wounded among the Kadhafi forces," he said.

In Tripoli, residents reported several waves of blasts had rocked the city on Friday.

The Libyan capital has over the past two days been subjected to the most intense NATO air raids since the international military campaign was launched on March 19 under a UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians.

In Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's special envoy Mikhail Margelov said he would visit Tripoli to try to find a solution to the conflict, having met the opposition in their Benghazi stronghold.

Thursday saw a surge of support for the rebels battling to oust Kadhafi at a meeting in Abu Dhabi of the International Contact Group on Libya.

Key powers agreed to unlock a billion dollars for their coffers, and the United States joined Australia and Spain in recognising the rebels National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's legitimate representative.

Gates, the Pentagon chief, expressed concern Friday with half of the countries in the 28-member NATO alliance not participating in the campaign, many simply did not have the wherewithal.

"Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they cannot," Gates said.

"The military capabilities simply aren't there."

Norway, which has contributed six F-16 fighters to the aerial campaign, said Friday it would first reduce its participation before pulling out altogether on August 1.

And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that while his country supported a three-month extension of the NATO operation, its six F-16s would not fly bombing missions.

Several nations taking part in the NATO-led campaign on Libya have contacted the United States to replenish their depleted ammunition stocks, US officials said Friday.

The announcement came as the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said the United States plans to export $46.1 billion in weapons this year, nearly doubling its 2010 figures.

Belgium, Britain, Canada, France and Italy are also among the nations participating in the attacks on Kadhafi's regime.

US Senator Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Kadhafi's forces had been "severely degraded" and the NATO operation was "going well", following a briefing from Pentagon officials.

Kadhafi sent a letter to the US Congress praising its criticism of President Barack Obama over Libya, a Washington source said.

"We are confident that history will see the wisdom of your country in debating these issues," said the letter seen by AFP, signed by Kadhafi as "Commander of the Great Revolution."

Congressional sources said they could not confirm the letter's authenticity.

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