x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Kuwait gives Libya $181 million to pay employees

Kuwait gives Libya's opposition leadership millions of dollars to help pay state employees because the Transitional National Council can't generate enough money to run its rebel government.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait has given Libya's opposition leadership $181 million (Dh666 million) to help pay state employees who have not been paid in months, the chairman of Libya's Transitional National Council said during a visit to Kuwait this week.

"We are in need of urgent aid," said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, at a news conference in Bayan Palace after meeting the emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, on Sunday. "We are capable of only covering 40 per cent of this (salary) amount."

Kuwait's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al Sabah, told reporters that Kuwait will work closely with the rebel leaders.

"We see the [Libyan] people exposed to this ordeal and their fate is unknown. This is something that cannot be accepted by the people of Kuwait," he added.

Sulaiman el Hammasi, a Libyan professor at Kuwait's Public Authority for Applied Education and Training, said the money is appreciated, but more is needed.

"They need food and medicine; they need a lot of things. In the long-run, they need more money for weapons and to repair what Qaddafi has destroyed," he said, referring to the embattled Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

Since the TNC announced it was "the sole representative of all Libya" on March 5, it has been recognised by France, Qatar, the Maldives, Italy, Kuwait and the Gambia. The European Union and the United States have had contacts with the group but are yet to give it official recognition

The TNC controls the eastern coastal region of Libya and pockets of territory close to Tripoli where Nato air strikes targeted the centre of Col Qaddafi's seat of power early yesterday, destroying a multi-storey library and office and badly damaging a reception hall for visiting dignitaries. Col Qaddafi's whereabouts at the time of the attack on his sprawling Bab al-Azizya compound were unclear. A security official at the scene said four people were lightly hurt, but a Libyan official accompanying journalists at the compound said the bombing injured 45 people, 15 of them seriously. "It was an attempt to assassinate Colonel Qaddafi," he said. Seif Al-Islam, Col Qaddafi's son, described the bombing as dishonorable and said it would do little to stop counterattack of army forces. "This cowardly attack on Muammar Qaddafi's office may frighten or terrorise children but we will not abandon the battle and we are not afraid," he said, claiming that NATO's battle was "lost in advance".

Late Sunday, four people were killed and nine wounded when government troops opened fire and blasted the town of Zintan in western Libya with Grad rockets, residents said yesterday.

The strikes came after Col Qaddafi's forces unleashed a barrage of shells and rockets at the besieged rebel city of Misurata, in an especially bloody weekend that left at least 32 dead and dozens wounded. The battle for Misurata, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two months, has become the focal point of Libya's armed rebellion against Col Qaddafi's since fighting elsewhere is deadlocked. Video of Misurata civilians being killed and wounded by Col Qaddafi's heavy weapons, including Grad rockets and tank shells, have spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed in the rebel-held city. In Washington on Sunday, three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said that more should be done to drive Col Qaddafi out of power, including targeting his inner circle with air strikes. Col Qaddafi "needs to wake up every day wondering, 'Will this be my last?"' Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican on the committee, told CNN's "State of the Union".

Nato's mandate from the UN is to try to protect civilians in Libya, split into a rebel-run east and a western area that remains largely under Col Qaddafi's control. While the coalition's airstrikes have delivered heavy blows to Col Qaddafi's army, they have not halted attacks on Misurata, a city of 300,000 people besieged by Qaddafi loyalists for two months. Still, in recent days, the rebels' drive to push Col Qaddafi's men out of the city centre gained momentum. Late last week, they forced government snipers out of high-rise buildings. On Sunday, rebels took control of the main hospital, the last position of Libyan troops in the center of Misurata, said a city resident, who only gave his first name, Abdel Salam, for fear of reprisals. Throughout the day, government forces fired more than 70 rockets at the city, he said. "Now Qaddafi's troops are on the outskirts of Misurata, using rocket launchers," Abdel Salam said. A Misurata rebel, 37-year-old Lutfi, said there had been 300-400 Qaddafi fighters in the main hospital and in the surrounding area that were trying to melt into the local population. "They are trying to run way," Lutfi said of the soldiers, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. "They are pretending to be civilians. They are putting on sportswear."

*With additional reporting by Associated Press and Agence France-Presse