International court issues arrest warrant for Gaddafi

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Monday for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and...

Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi gestures as he enters the U.N. headquarters for the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2009. AFP

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Monday for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and rebels trying to oust him said their forces had advanced to within 80 km (50 miles) of the capital.

Also Monday, Germany's Spiegel Online cited government sources as saying Berlin had agreed to a request to supply NATO with bomb components, the latest indication of the strain on alliance munitions of its three-month bombing campaign.

The Hague-based court approved warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity. ICC prosecutors allege they were involved in the killing of civilian protesters who rose up in February against Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

"To prevent them covering up ongoing crimes and committing new crimes, they should be arrested. This is the only way to protect civilians in Libya," said ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who had sought the arrest warrants.

Reading out the warrant at the court in The Hague, presiding judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng said Saif al-Islam Gaddafi had "conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell by all means the civilian demonstrations" against the regime and that al-Senussi used his position to have attacks carried out.

The warrant is unlikely to lead to Gaddafi's arrest as long he remains in power and inside Libya, because the court does not have the power to enforce its warrants.

However, celebrations erupted in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, in eastern Libya, after the ICC's decision. People honked car horns, waved flags and fired shots into the air.

The ICC decision invalidated any notion of having negotiations with Gaddafi, insurgent officials said.

"After this warrant, it is all irrelevant. We cannot negotiate with war criminals," Jalal al-Galal, spokesman of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) told Reuters.

The move was also welcomed by NATO and alliance members.

"It's another indication that Muammar Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Gaddafi's administration made no immediate comment on the ICC ruling but has denied targeting civilians, saying it took action against armed criminal gangs and al Qaeda militants.

Speaking Sunday, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the court was guilty of double standards and lacked legitimacy.

BREAKTHROUGH

Anti-Gaddafi rebels, based in the Western Mountains region southwest of Tripoli, made their biggest breakthrough in weeks to reach the town of Bir al-Ghanam, where they are now fighting pro-Gaddafi forces for control, their spokesman said.

The move took them 30 km (18 miles) north of their previous position and closer to Tripoli, Gaddafi's main power base.

"There were battles there most of yesterday," Juma Ibrahim, a rebel spokesman, said by telephone.

"Some of our fighters were martyred and they (government forces) also suffered casualties and we captured equipment and vehicles. It's quiet there today and the rebels are still in their positions," he said from the nearby town of Zintan.

The rebels have been battling Gaddafi's forces since late February, when thousands of people rebelled, prompting a fierce crackdown by Gaddafi's security forces.

The revolt has turned into the bloodiest of the Arab Spring uprisings against autocratic rulers across the Middle East.

In Nalut district by the Tunisian border, rebels said power and water infrastructure had been hit by pro-Gaddafi bombing.

"There is a crisis here," said a spokesman, identified as Mohammed. "We are without electricity after the brigades hit high-voltage electricity posts ... and the power problem affected water supplies."

A _Reuters _reporter in the centre of Tripoli heard at least two loud explosions Monday coming from the direction of Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound, repeatedly targeted by NATO.

Later, government officials took reporters to the compound. They showed them a burnt-out bus which, they said, belonged to Gaddafi and had been hit by two NATO missiles.

ISOLATION

Gaddafi is the second sitting head of state to have an ICC arrest warrant issued against him. One was issued previously for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Securing arrests, however, has proven difficult for the ICC, which has no police force and relies on member states to enforce arrest orders. Some states have refused to arrest Bashir, who is still able to travel to friendly states.

Mohammed al-Alagi, justice minister for the Libyan rebels, told reporters in The Hague that, depending events, they might opt to prosecute Gaddafi in Libya.

Some military officials within NATO have been warning for weeks that alliance resources are being stretched thin by a bombing campaign that has so far failed to dislodge Gaddafi.

In Germany, which broke ranks with NATO allies to abstain in the United Nations vote underpinning current operations, Spiegel Online said Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere had approved a NATO request to supply bomb components and other ordnance.

A defence ministry spokesman said a request for supplies came from the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA), but declined to give details about the nature. "The general willingness to provide support was signalled," he said.

In neighbouring Tunisia, three Libyan ministers, including the foreign minister, were holding talks with "foreign parties," the Tunisian state news agency reported, in a possible sign some in Gaddafi's circle were seeking a settlement.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington could not confirm the talks were taking place but said any discussions must focus on Gadaffi's departure.

"He's got to end the violence, he's got to pull back and he's got to step down from power. So if that's the tenor of the conversation, we'd be interested to hear about it," Nuland said.