Connect to share and comment

Italy calls for halt to NATO military action in Libya to allow for humanitarian aid (VIDEO)

Suggestion is rejected by France and Britain, with both countries emphasizing the need for continued pressure on Gaddafi

Nato airstrikes warships libya 05 20 11Enlarge
Flames engulf a ship in the port of the Libyan capital Tripoli following NATO air strikes on May 19, 2011. Tripoli is targeted nearly daily with air raids by the international coalition, which launched strikes on March 19 to prevent Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's forces from attacking civilians. (MAHMUD TURKIA /AFP/Getty Images)

As concerns grow about civilian casualties in Libya, the Italian foreign minister on Wednesday called for a halt to NATO military action there to allow humanitarian aid access, a proposal that France and Britain rejected, according to Reuters.

"The need to look for a ceasefire has become more pressing," the minister, Franco Frattini, told parliament.

"As well as the ceasefire, which is the first stage towards a political negotiation, a humanitarian stop to military action is fundamental to allow immediate humanitarian aid."

France and Britain quickly said they opposed a cessation of bombing, saying that a ceasefire would give Muammar Gaddafi's regime time to regroup and reorganize, the Irish Times said.

According to Reuters:

"We have to intensify the pressure on Gaddafi. Any pause in operations would risk allowing him to gain time and reorganize himself," said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

Britain, which along with France was one of the first countries to put its weight behind the rebellion, agreed.

"Our position is that this is in Gaddafi's hands. He has called several ceasefires and none of them have resulted in ceasefires," Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said.

"The right approach at the present time is to increase the pressure on Gaddafi."

Gaddafi called the NATO countries "murderers" in a speech late Wednesday, and recent attacks that resulted in civilian deaths have prompted some in the alliance itself to question its tactics, according to Reuters.

The Italian government has criticized what it calls "dramatic errors" that NATO has made in its bombing campaign, BBC News said.

Last weekend, NATO admitted that it had mistakenly destroyed a civilian residence in Tripoli; the Gaddafi regime claimed that nine civilians had been killed in that incident, and that an additional 15 civilians, including three children, had been killed in a different NATO raid on Monday, near Surman, west of Tripoli, Reuters said.

Libyan TV said Tuesday morning that “dozens” of people had been killed by shelling from NATO ships in the western town of Zlitan, where the rebels have been trying to advance, but that report couldn't be confirmed.