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Sunday, March 6, 2011

EU mission to Libya to assess humanitarian needs

Brussels (ANTARA News/Reuters) - The European Union dispatched a fact-finding mission to Tripoli on Sunday charged with reporting back on humanitarian and evacuation needs there to an EU crisis summit on Libya this week, an EU statement said.

The team, headed by the head of EU crisis management, Agostino Miozzo, left for the Libyan capital from Rome on an aircraft provided by the Italian government.

"Its aim will be to assess humanitarian and evacuation efforts on the ground in Libya to make an appraisal of what may be needed in terms of additional support," the statement said.

It said it was the first such international mission to the country since the recent violence erupted there.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the EU response to the crisis in Libya ahead of a summit of European leaders that will focus on Libya on Friday.

"I have decided to dispatch this high level mission to provide me with first-hand, real-time information to feed into the discussions leading up to Friday`s extraordinary European Council when I will update Heads of State and Government on the situation," Ashton said in the statement.

An EU diplomat stressed that the aim of the mission was to gather facts, not to negotiate with the Libyan authorities.

"We have people on the borders, but nobody on the ground in Libya to find out what`s going on," the diplomat said. "We are not there to negotiate, but to listen, and find out what`s going on the ground."

Intense automatic gunfire erupted in Tripoli on Sunday, the first such outbreak in Muammar Gaddafi`s main stronghold in a two-week-old insurrection against his 41-year-old rule.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim denied any fighting was under way in the capital, saying the gunfire was to mark the army`s recapture of several cities from rebel forces. 

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