World Diplomats Meet To Put More Pressure On Gadhafi - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

World Diplomats Meet To Put More Pressure On Gadhafi

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- As fighting between government and rebel forces rages on in several Libyan towns, world leaders will gather Tuesday in London to plan ways to put pressure on leader Moammar Gadhafi.

More than 40 foreign ministers and representatives from regional groups will attend the conference, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chairman of the African Union Jean Ping and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"The purpose of this conference is to broaden and deepen the coalition effort," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "We all want to see that cease-fire. We all want to see Gadhafi go. Those things are clear. But once we have that cease-fire, we have something to work with."

The conference comes as opposition fighters, aided by coalition airstrikes, made some gains in fighting Gadhafi's forces. It also comes a day after U.S. President Barack Obama explained America's role in the conflict and declared that "history is not on Gadhafi's side."

Organizers of the conference say the influential group will look for ways to strengthen the U.N. Security Council resolution approved on March 17 that created a no-fly zone above Libya and mandated the protection of civilians. They will also search for urgent ways to get humanitarian aid to war-torn cities like Misrata.

Rebels are holding a tenuous grasp on some of the gains they made this week, but suffered setbacks Monday on their trek west into territory loyal to Gadhafi.

As they moved into Umm el Ghindel -- near Sirte, Gadhafi's birthplace -- they found that Gadhafi's forces had armed residents in the area, they said. They beat a hasty retreat, they said.

The ragtag group of amateur soldiers gained control of the town of Ras Lanuf, however. They also appeared to have taken control of the key oil town of al-Brega.

In Misrata, battles that have been going on for weeks continued Monday, with both rebels and government forces claiming to have control of the city.

The Libyan government took journalists to Misrata on Monday to prove that they still had control of the city but did not allow journalists into the city center, which rebels have said they control.

Rebels have credited coalition airstrikes with helping them regain ground, noting that they had encountered little resistance as they headed west over the weekend. But they said they need more airstrikes to advance further.

Decisions on future airstrikes will be made by NATO starting Wednesday, Obama said.

Obama defended his decision to commit U.S. forces to the U.N. backed military intervention but said the U.S. would now have "a supporting role -- including intelligence, logistical support, search-and-rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications."

The United States will also send a liaison to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi to open up a more direct line of communication with members of the opposition, a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday. The official did not say when.

Also U.S. military planes fired at three Libyan boats in waters off the coast of Misrata, destroying one and damaging the other two, military officials said in a statement Tuesday. The Libyan ships were targeted because of reports that they were firing indiscriminately at merchant vessels in the port of Misrata on Monday, the statement said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained that the coalition's actions seemed to expand beyond the U.N. resolution's scope.

"There are reports -- which go undenied -- that the air forces of the coalition conduct airstrikes on Gadhafi's troops and support the military actions of rebels. There is an obvious controversy there," he told reporters in Moscow. "We believe that the interference into what is, essentially, an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution."

Russia abstained from voting on the U.N. Security Council resolution but did not veto it.

NATO, which has 28 member countries, formally approved plans Sunday to take control of enforcing the U.N. Security Council resolution.

The coalition enforcing the resolution has been led by the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

"Our mandate is very clear. We're there to protect civilians against attacks. No more, no less," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN.

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