Ban Ki -moon says Libyan officials, opposition expected at AU meeting to seek cease-fire

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Representatives of Moammar Gadhafi's government and the Libyan opposition will be among those attending an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday. The meeting is part of efforts to reach a cease-fire and political solution in Libya, Ban said. The U.N. chief told the Security Council that his special envoy to Libya, former Jordanian foreign minister Abdelilah Al-Khatib, as well as representatives of relevant countries and regional organizations will also attend.Ban told the 15-member council that there is no evidence that Libyan officials have instituted a cease-fire as they claim.

"To the contrary, fierce battles continue in or around the cities of Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zitan, among others," Ban said in his first report since the council passed two resolutions aimed at protecting civilians in Libya. Ban said Al-Khatib has warned Gadhafi government officials that the council is prepared to take additional measures if they do not respect the two resolutions that call for a cease-fire. "The special envoy emphasized that it was in Libya's best interest to cease hostilities and change the dynamics of the crisis," he said. The second of the council's two resolutions also authorized establishment of a no-fly zone and the use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya.

In his report to the council, Ban also expressed concerns about Libya's precarious humanitarian situation, protection of civilians, and human rights abuses. During his March 13 visit to Tripoli, Al-Khatib said in meetings with the Libyan foreign minister and other senior officials that "attacks on civilians must stop, those responsible for crimes against their people will be accountable, safe humanitarian access must be guaranteed, resolutions 1970 and 1093 must be implemented in full."

U.N. humanitarian officials have had only limited access to see the situation inside the country, Ban said, adding that there are increasing worries about civilian access to basic commodities and services in areas under siege. He said the World Food Program has received reports that food prices in Libya are rising sharply, with the price of flour doubling in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, more than 335,000 people have left Libya since the crisis began, and about 9,000 of them remain stranded along the country's border with Tunisia, he said. "The U.N. and the Libyan authorities continue to be far apart in their respective analyses of the scope and sale of the humanitarian situation," Ban said. "No agreement has been reached on how an interagency needs-assessment mission would be carried out. Source (The Canadian Press)