(See EXTRA and MET for more on Middle East unrest.)
June 18 (Bloomberg) -- Forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi fired rockets at the port and center of Misrata, attacking the besieged western city for the first time in weeks, as the Libyan leader said he has no intention of giving up power.
Qaddafi, in an audio message aired on state television yesterday, vowed that his forces will defeat the air campaign of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“We don’t want to negotiate, we are resilient even if they strike with atomic bombs,” Qaddafi said. “We will provoke them to use atomic bombs, let them strike with atomic bombs.”
Western and Arab leaders are demanding an end to Qaddafi’s four-decade rule, and NATO aircraft are targeting his forces in a military campaign about to enter its fourth month. Qaddafi’s forces attacked Misrata yesterday for the first time since government units were pushed out of the urban areas on May 12.
The shelling coincided with an assault on the western outskirts of the city by infantry and artillery. Misrata’s Hikma hospital reported 11 dead and 41 wounded in the attack on the forward positions. One woman was killed and two of her children injured by the government bombardment of the rebel-held city, Radio Misrata said.
NATO jets yesterday flew over the city 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of the capital, Tripoli, and 23 detonations were heard beyond the rebel front line near the town of Zlitan. Reports that this was NATO bombing of government forces couldn’t be confirmed.
NATO dropped thousands of leaflets this week on the Libyan government front lines around Misrata. The flyers showed a picture of an Apache helicopter and threatening retaliation against any forces firing at civilian areas.
The fighting has largely halted Libya’s oil exports. Eni SpA said there has been no damage as far as it knows to its Libyan plants. It will take months for oil output to resume, Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni said in an interview in St. Petersburg, Russia, yesterday.
Crude oil dropped to the lowest level in almost four months today in New York on doubts European efforts to resolve the Greek debt crisis will succeed, spurring concern of reduced economic growth and fuel demand.
Crude oil for July delivery dropped $1.94 to $93.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement price since Feb. 18. The move capped the biggest weekly decline in six weeks.
Russia’s envoy to Africa said Qaddafi refuses to step down, after holding talks with Libyan government officials in Tripoli.
“The prime minister said Qaddafi doesn’t intend to resign,” Mikhail Margelov said yesterday by telephone from Tunis, a day after meeting with Libyan officials including Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi. “For the government of Tripoli, they aren’t prepared to discuss the future of Qaddafi.”
Margelov said Mahmudi assured him the government is in direct contact with the rebels. Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the rebel National Transitional Council, denied any direct contact with Qaddafi officials, according to a report yesterday by Russian news service RIA Novosti.
Margelov, who earlier this month held talks with rebels in the eastern port city of Benghazi, said there need to be “clear rules of the game” to achieve a handover of power.
--With assistance from Caroline Alexander in London, Henry Meyer in Moscow, Mark Shenk in New York, Alessandra Migliaccio in Rome, Nadeem Hamid in Washington and Paul Tighe in Sydney. Editors: Terry Atlas, Paul Tighe
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