NATO hits guard towers at Khadafy’s compound
Rebel leaders say funding running low
TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO warplanes struck Moammar Khadafy’s compound in Tripoli yesterday, as the new rebel administration warned that it was fast running out of money because countries that promised financial aid have not come through.
The air raid leveled guard towers on the walls of the compound, NATO said in a statement.
Nearly two dozen Libyan soldiers, including a colonel and other officers, have fled the country in two small boats and took refuge in neighboring Tunisia, where thousands fleeing the fighting in Libya have taken refuge.
A person who met with some of them says they fled rebel-held Misurata, arriving at Ketf port, near Ben Guerdane, on the Tunisian side of the border. The person who met with them yesterday asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. The group turned over their weapons to the Tunisian Army.
The official TAP news agency said 22 military, some ranking officers, arrived Friday in boats carrying a dozen civilians, two with bullet wounds.
Alii Tarhouni, the rebel finance minister, complained that many countries that pledged aid have instead sent a string of businessmen looking for contracts from the oil-rich country.
“They are very vocal in terms of [offering financial] help but all that we have seen is that they are . . . looking for business,’’ Tarhouni said yesterday.
Tarhouni recently returned to Benghazi, the rebel bastion, from a trip overseas to drum up aid that included a visit to Rome, where the 22-nation Contract Group on Libya promised to set up a fund to help finance the rebel administration speedily.
“I think even our friends do not understand the urgency of the situation. Either they don’t understand, or they don’t care,’’ Tarhouni said.
Tarhouni singled out Qatar and Kuwait for their “generous, very generous help.’’
He did not specify the aid these countries have offered, but Qatar has sent fighter jets, airplanes full of food and medical aid, as well as helping the rebels market their oil.
Tarhouni also praised France, which was the driving force behind the UN no-fly zone. But “other than that, everybody is just talking,’’ he said. “So far, nothing has come through and I am fast running out of cash.’’
Tarhouni emphasized that the rebels’ National Transitional Council will be signing no long-term contracts.
While the rebel administration will honor previously signed contracts, Tarhouni indicated a new democratically elected government might do otherwise. “Right now, I am not going to sign any contract that has any consequences for the future of Libya, with the exception of what I need in terms of food, medicine, fuel,’’ he said.
Before the conflict, Libya, an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries member, produced about 1.6 million barrels per day, just under 2 percent of world production.
Also yesterday, an alliance spokesman said NATO fighter jets struck Khadafy’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli in the early hours yesterday. He said the Libyan leader was not a target and there was no way to know if he was there at the time of the attack.
The spokesman said that around noon a vehicle storage area in the same area was hit.
The strike sent a shuddering boom through Tripoli and rattled windows. Such a daylight attack is fairly unusual since NATO began its aerial attacks over Libya three months ago.
Airstrikes over the past week have pounded the large barracks area that lies close to the Khadafy compound. The same compound was badly damaged by US warplanes 25 years ago in response to a bombing that had killed two US servicemen at a German disco.
Yesterday’s airstrike came after leaders at a summit of the Group of Eight world powers reiterated that Khadafy had to leave power. Russia, a leading critic of the NATO campaign and one-time Khadafy ally offered to mediate a deal for the Libyan leader to leave the country.
Speaking at the summit in Deauville, France, President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia said Friday he was sending an envoy to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi immediately to start negotiating, and that talks with the Libyan government could take place later.
National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said yesterday that the rebels would accept negotiations led by anyone willing to find a solution — as long as it requires the departure of Khadafy and his sons.