Tribal leaders from across Libya have called for an end to Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship in a statement released by French academic and sometime rebel spokesperson Bernard-Henri Levy.
"Faced with the threats weighing on the unity of our country, faced with the maneuvers and propaganda of the dictator and his family, we solemnly declare nothing will divide us," the statement, drawn up in Benghazi on Apr. 12, reportedly said. "We share the same ideal of a free, democratic and united Libya."
Levy, a well-known writer and film maker in France, is credited with pressuring President Nicolas Sarkozy to mobilize international political and military support of the Libyan revolt.
The call came as NATO war planes again pounded forces loyal to the Libyan leader in a counter attack in the rebel-held city of Misurata. Gaddafi's forces were blasting government military vehicles that had been advancing on the besieged western port city — a focal point of the uprising against Gaddafi.
Near-constant shelling of the city by government troops over the past two months has spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed, the AP reports.
And there were increasing fears Gaddafi could use suspected stocks of chemical weapons against Misurata.
"It's a real threat," Hossein al-Fortiya, a member of Misurata's rebel council, reportedly said. "If he's crazy enough to send bombs against us he could put poison in the water. He could do anything."
The African Union has urged an end to military actions targeting senior Libyan officials and key infrastructure, after the U.S. and Britain said it was legitimate to bomb Gaddafi's home compound, as NATO on Sunday night.
"Council urges all involved to refrain from actions, including military operations targeting Libyan senior officials and socio-economic infrastructure, that would compound the situation and make it more difficult to achieve international consensus on the best way forward," the Union reportedly said.
But the U.S. and British defense secretaries, Robert Gates and Liam Fox, insisted command centers for the regime's forces were legitimate targets.
Libya, meanwhile, said it had asked Russia to convene an urgent meeting of the Security Council over what it called the "assassination attempt" on Gaddafi on Sunday.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken out strongly against the NATO-led air strikes, and on Tuesday repeated his criticism, questioning whether the Western coalition had a mandate to target Gaddafi.
The statement by the tribal chiefs, published on the website of the magazine, La Regle du Jeu, run by Levi — an unofficial spokesman for the Libyan revolt — reads, "The Libya of tomorrow, once the dictator has gone, will be a united Libya, with Tripoli as its capital and where we will at last be free to build a civil society according to our own wishes," according to a translation of the text by Agence France-Presse.
"We form, we the Libyans, a single and united tribe — the tribe of free Libyans, battling against oppression and the wicked genie of division," it continues.
Levy told AFP: "Each of the tribes in Libya is represented by at least a representative. In this list of 61 signatures, some tribes are represented 100 percent, others are still divided."