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France, Britain push for tougher military action, AU urges ceasefire

media Anti-Kadhafi protesters demonstrate outside the hotel in Benghazi where AU representatives met rebel leaders to discuss peace plan. Reuters/Andrew Winning

France and Britain criticised Nato on Tuesday for not doing enough to protect civilians in Libya. Meanwhile the African Union urged rebels to cooperate with efforts to reach a ceasefire.

“Nato must fully play its role, and it is not doing so sufficiently,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told France Info radio.

That role consists of destroying heavy weapons used by Moamer Kadhafi’s forces to bomb civilians, he said, which today are still in use.

It’s the first time France has openly criticised the Nato operation since the alliance took over the air strikes on Libya two weeks ago.

Juppé’s comments were echoed by UK Foreign Minister William Hague, who called on the allies behind air strikes on Libya to “maintain and intensify our efforts in Nato”.

The UK last week supplied additional aircraft for the operation, Hague pointed out, urging other countries to do the same.

“A huge amount has been achieved in Libya but clearly there is more to be done,” he said.

Hague was speaking ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg of European foreign ministers, which is expected to focus on the Libyan crisis.

The African Union, meanwhile, continues to push for a ceasefire. On Tuesday it made “an urgent call” on the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) to cooperate in talks to find “a fair and lasting political solution”, “for the sake of Libya’s higher interests”.

The TNC rejected an AU proposal on Monday that called for an immediate end to hostilities, but did not insist that Kadhafi leave power. Rebels say any deal that leaves Kadhafi in office is unacceptable.

Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam told French TV that there was no chance of his father leaving.

Speaking to news channel BFM on Monday night, he acknowledged that Libya needed “new blood” in government in the future, but said that any talk of Kadhafi stepping down was “truly ridiculous”.

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