U.N. Leader Alarmed over Rising Civilian Toll in Libya
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed alarm over the rising number of civilian casualties in the Libya conflict, including those inflicted in NATO airstrikes.
Without specifically naming any side, Ban called on "all parties" to use "extreme caution" in the battle, said a U.N. statement. Ban also stepped up calls for a political solution to the conflict, in which rebels have sought to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's four-decades-old regime.
"The secretary general is deeply concerned by reports of the unacceptably large number of civilian casualties as a result of the conflict in Libya," said the statement.
"The secretary general calls on all parties to exercise extreme caution in their actions, in order to minimize any further loss of civilian life," it added.
When asked if NATO was included in the message, a U.N. spokeswoman stressed the "all parties" phrase.
Ban has been a staunch defender of the NATO air campaign against Gadhafi, which began in March.
But the air attacks have drawn harsh criticism from members of the U.N. Security Council, including Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, who say the action goes beyond U.N. resolutions on Libya.
UNESCO's director general Irina Bokova this week branded as "unacceptable" a NATO attack on the Libyan state broadcasting headquarters in which three people died, saying that media should not be targeted.
NATO has insisted that its attacks are in keeping with U.N. resolutions passed this year which allow military action to protect civilians in Libya.
On Wednesday, Ban spoke with Gadhafi's Prime Minister, Baghdadi Mahmudi, to press for the protection of civilians and demand new efforts to find a political solution to the conflict, the United Nations said.
Ban told Mahmudi "he was very troubled that there had been an absolute lack of progress in the efforts to find a politically negotiated solution" to the conflict, it said.
In the latest statement, Ban reaffirmed "his strongly held belief that there can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis.
"A ceasefire that is linked to a political process which would meet the aspirations of the Libyan people is the only viable means to achieving peace and security in Libya."
He urged Gadhafi and the rebels "to immediately engage" with special U.N. envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, and "respond concretely and positively to the ideas presented to them, in order to end the bloodshed in the country."
The former Jordanian foreign minister has spent months shuttling between Tripoli and the rebel base at Benghazi trying to start ceasefire talks between the Gadhafi regime and the rebels' governing council.