The African Union is meeting to discuss a possible peace planHuman rights groups want the group to prioritize the issue of civilian casualtiesLibya states latest round of NATO strikes have killed civiliansNATO stated there is no indication that it did so
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — The African Union will attempt Sunday to map a road to peace in Libya, despite a previous failed effort to end hostilities between Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and rebels seeking to oust the Libyan leader.
The meeting follows claims a day earlier by the Libyan government that NATO warplanes bombed a bakery and a restaurant in a key oil refinery town east of Tripoli, a charge the alliance has countered.
The African Union’s Special Committee on Libya, established in March, will convene in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss avenues to end the months-long fighting that has gripped the nation and left tens of thousands dead.
Ahead of the meeting, human rights activists urged the African Union to prioritize the issue of the plight of civilians caught in armed conflicts, including Libya.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have blamed the Gadhafi regime for violations of human rights, including indiscriminate fire on civilians, the use of internationally banned cluster bombs and the torture and executions of captured fighters.
NATO began bombing military targets in March after the U.N. Security Council issued a resolution authorizing force by whatever means necessary, with the exception of a ground invasion, to protect civilians.
Over the last three months, members of the union’s special committee on Libya have met with Gadhafi and opposition leaders. The special committee includes representatives from Mauritania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Uganda and South Africa.
Gadhafi has been a strong supporter of the African Union and has channeled massive sums of money its way. Libya also holds a seat on the 15-member Peace and Security Council, which is headed by Ramtane Lamamra.
As such, opposition leaders had voiced doubt that any mediation involving that multinational group would end the conflict in a way that would satisfy their goals, which include Gadhafi’s ouster.
In April, the African Union attempted to broker peace between Gadhafi and the rebels. In the agreement, the African Union stated Gadhafi had concurred in principle to stop all hostilities and grant outside forces to help keep the peace.
The rebels rejected the proposal, saying it did not address whether Gadhafi would step down nor did it provide any solution to the violence against the Libyan people.
The proposal did not address whether Gadhafi would step down, nor was it binding.
Libya accused NATO on Sunday of killing civilians in airstrikes, with NATO responding that it struck key command-and-control centers. The alliance stated there was “no indication of civilian casualties in connection with these strikes.”
Gadhafi’s forces have occupied buildings in an abandoned area of al-Brega from where they are launching attacks on civilians, a NATO statement said. The alliance monitored the buildings and stated it determined they were clear military targets.
“This continues to show Gadhafi’s reprehensible tactics of placing military assets and operations at the heart of civilian neighborhoods,” stated Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, NATO commander for the Libya campaign.
“We have meticulously monitored these developments for a significant period and it was time to remove this threat,” he said.
Al-Brega is a key oil refinery town about 500 miles east of Tripoli that has been the scene of heavy fighting between pro-Gadhafi forces and rebel fighters.
Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman and deputy chairman of the opposition’s Transitional National Council, stated Gadhafi bears a lot of the responsibility for civilian casualties as the Libyan leader keeps weapons near where people live.
Also Saturday, Libyan say TV stated NATO strikes hit Gharyan, a city in the west. The report cited an unnamed military source who stated a number of people were killed and wounded in the attack. CNN can’t independently confirm the claim.
CNN’s Raja Razek, Yousuf Basil and Ingrid Formanek and journalist David Adams contributed to this report.
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Submited at Sunday, June 26th, 2011 at 8:00 am on World News by robert
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