UN may send humanitarian mission to Libya this weekend

The UN may send its humanitarian aid and workers to Libya this weekend, said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.

She met with Libyan government officials in Tripoli and rebel authorities in their stronghold of Benghazi earlier this week to discuss international aid to the country, hit by a humanitarian crisis due to hostilities between the supporters of strongman Muammar Gaddafi and the opposition.

“We plan to send the teams in Tripoli as early as this weekend, in addition to humanitarian staff already on the ground,” she said.

Amos also said that the European Union-led military operation (EUFOR) and NATO had agreed to provide the UN with military support should it become necessary for aid delivery, but there was no such need at the moment.

“Not at the moment, we are able to get in using civilian means,” she said. “We are still able, utilizing civilian assets, to evacuate people and to get aid in. It’s difficult but we are able to do it”

The statement comes in the wake of recent rumors that France was pushing EU countries to the ground campaign in Libya by sending an EU humanitarian-military mission to the troubled North African state. Russian permanent envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said earlier this week that a ground military operation may be introduced “as an operation to secure humanitarian convoys.”

Amos noted that the use of military escorts to secure humanitarian convoys may put staff and cargoes at risk.

“My priority is getting humanitarian aid in and making sure that the lines between the humanitarian and the military are not blurred,” the UN official added.

She said the Libyan government agreed to provide security guarantees necessary for UN aid workers in areas under the control of the Libyan government and facilitate entry and exit of humanitarian staff and cargoes.

“In Tripoli we signed an agreement with the country’s leadership on the protection of humanitarian aid convoys, and granting access to those in need, especially in areas where fighting is taking place,” she said, speaking about the results of her two-day trip to Libya earlier this week.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya on March 17, paving the way for a military operation against embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi which began two days later. The command of the operation was shifted from a U.S.-led international coalition to NATO in late March.

Despite dozens of sorties carried out by NATO aircraft against Gaddafi’s forces, the government troops maintain their combat capability and continue to pound poorly-equipped rebels with heavy artillery and rocket fire.


NEW YORK, April 21 (RIA Novosti)

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