ICC issues arrest warrant against Gaddafi, son, intelligence chief

U.S. Senate approves participation in military operations in Libya

Russia for efforts to launch dialogue among different powers in Yemen

Yemeni authorities foil terrorist scheme in Aden

Dozens killed or wounded in clashes with al-Qaeda in Abyan

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the 100th day of a NATO bombing campaign.

Britain, which has led the UN-mandated international effort to protect civilians from Gaddafi's forces, hailed Monday's court decision and said members of the Libyan regime should now abandon him.

Italy's foreign ministry said the decision of the three-judge court, set up in 2002 to try war crimes, confirmed that Gaddafi had lost all 'moral legitimacy' and could have 'no role in the future of his country.'

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had sought the warrants for Gaddafi, 69, his son Seif al-Islam, 39, and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, 62, for murder and persecution since mid-February, when the bloody uprising started.

All three are charged over their roles in suppressing the revolt, in which civilians were murdered and persecuted by Libyan forces, particularly in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, the prosecutor said.

Thousands have so far died in the fighting, while around 650,000 others fled the country. Another 243,000 Libyans have been displaced internally, according to UN figures.

Moreno-Ocampo said on Sunday that the war crimes in Libya will not stop until Gaddafi is arrested.

'Crimes continue today in Libya. To stop the crimes and protect civilians in Libya, Gaddafi must be arrested.'

The only other warrant issued by the ICC for a sitting head of state, for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in March 2009, has yet to be served. Bashir was due to begin a state visit to China later on Monday.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the decision to issue arrest warrants for the three.

'These individuals are accused of crimes against humanity and should be held to account before judges in a criminal court,' he said, calling on the Libyan government to cooperate with the investigation.

'The warrants further demonstrate why Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy and why he should go immediately. His forces continue to attack Libyans without mercy and this must stop,' Hague said.

'Individuals throughout the regime should abandon Gaddafi.

In his submission, Moreno-Ocampo said Gaddafi had a personal hand in planning and implementing 'a policy of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians and demonstrators and dissidents in particular.'

'Gaddafi's plan expressly included the use of lethal force against demonstrators and dissidents,' the submission said.

The Libyan strongman also ordered sniping at civilians leaving mosques after evening prayers. His forces carried out a systematic campaign of arrest and detention of alleged dissidents, it said.

'Gaddafi's plans were carried out through his inner circle, which included Seif al-Islam, Gaddafi's de-facto prime minister and his brother-in-law Al-Senussi, considered to be his right-hand man,' the submission said.

The ICC is the world's only permanent, treaty-based court set up to try those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide if the accused's own country cannot or will not do so.

NATO meanwhile said it is hitting around 50 targets a day and that its Operation Unified Protector was approaching its 5,000th strike sortie.

The air strikes are mostly in or around Tripoli and Misrata in the west; Brega in the east; and the Nafusa Mountains southwest of the capital.

The strikes appear to have helped the rebels launch an offensive of their own against Gaddafi's forces. However, only in Nafusa does the rebel army of ill-equipped irregulars and defectors appear to be making any sustained progress.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said rebel forces on Monday were around 50 kilometres from Tripoli, a day after seizing a hill some 15 kilometres from Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic point on the road to the capital.

Rebel commanders said the fighting centered on Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic point on the road to the Libyan capital.

Moreno-Ocampo's investigation follows a referral by the United Nations Security Council on the Libyan conflict on February 26. The prosecutor's office launched its investigation five days later. On May 16, Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for the warrants.

A resolution authorizing U.S. intervention in Libya was approved Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hours after members skeptically grilled the administration's legal adviser over his assertion that air strikes and other military measures did not amount to hostilities.

The resolution, approved 14-5, would allow President Barack Obama to continue for one year the involvement of U.S. military forces in the NATO-led operation in Libya; it now heads to the full Senate. A similar measure failed in the House last week, underscoring that even in a divided government, the Senate remains a more interventionist body while the House is increasingly dubious about foreign ventures and their cost.

For weeks, tensions have escalated between members of Congress and the Obama administration over the president's decision not to seek congressional authorization for the mission in Libya.

The Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution stipulates that presidents must terminate unauthorized deployments into what the law calls hostilities 60 days after notifying Congress that they have begun.

In testimony before the committee Tuesday, Harold Koh, the legal adviser to the State Department, insisted that the resolution did not apply to Libya, a position that the administration has expressed repeatedly.

"From the outset, we noted that the situation in Libya does not constitute a war," Koh said.

He cited four factors - ground troops and significant non-air forces have not been involved; the lack of U.S. casualties or a significant threat of them; a limited risk of escalation and the limited use of military means - as the central points of logic in the administration's decision to essentially ignore Congress beyond providing largely perfunctory information.

That logic was rejected by many members of the committee.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said, "When you have an operation that goes on for months, costs billions of dollars, where the United States is providing two-thirds of the troops, even under the NATO fig leaf, where they're dropping bombs that are killing people, where you're paying your troops offshore combat pay and there are areas of prospective escalation - something I've been trying to get a clear answer from with this administration for several weeks now, and that is the possibility of a ground presence in some form or another, once the Gaddafi regime expires - I would say that's hostilities."

The resolution that the committee voted on was co-sponsored by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the committee, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. In arguing for its passage, Kerry pressed his colleagues to look beyond the issue of how the White House had conferred with Congress and to support the mission, which he said was largely aimed at saving Libyan civilians from massacre.

Meanwhile, Russia supports efforts toward establishing dialogue between the opposing political forces in Yemen with the aim of normalizing the situation in the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement summing up the outcomes of a telephone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Yemeni Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi, who is currently performing presidential duties.

"Russia expressed support for efforts to establish a dialogue aimed at normalizing the situation in the country and initiating detailed discussions regarding ways to reform political and socioeconomic life of Yemeni society," it said.

"Lavrov stressed in this connection that the Russian Federation will be prepared to associate itself with decisions on overcoming negative consequences of the crisis made by the Yemeni political forces themselves based on national consent," it said.

Russia also confirmed its support for steps facilitating stabilization of the situation in Yemen that are being made by the member-states of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, other countries, and the UN, it said.

The Yemeni vice president thanked Russia for its consistent support for preserving Yemen's unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in favor of settling problems facing the country in a peaceful way and within the constitutional framework.

Yemen has thwarted an Al-Qaeda plot to attack vital installations in the main southern city of Aden, arresting six suspects, Saba state news agency reported on Monday.

"The armed forces yesterday (Sunday) foiled a plan by members linked to Al-Qaeda to carry out terrorist attacks targeting vital and economic installations in Aden," Saba quoted a military official as saying.

"Six of the most dangerous members of the network specialized in the manufacture of explosives" were arrested at Al-Alam army checkpoint, about three kilometres (two miles) northeast of Aden, said the official.

"Detonators and communications equipment were seized," he added. Fear has mounted of a spillover by armed extremists to the strategic port city of Aden from nearby Zinjibar, where battles have raged between alleged Al-Qaeda militants and government troops.

Armed militants calling themselves "Partisans of Sharia" (Islamic law) seized control of most of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, on May 29.

The air force launched raids against administration and military sites that are in the hands of Islamist insurgents, a military source said on Sunday, adding there were "casualties in the ranks of the enemy."

A local official told AFP on Monday that seven civilians were killed and two more were wounded when their bus was hit by a shell at the village of Dofas, some 15 kilometres from Zinjibar.

At least 100 soldiers have been killed since the violence erupted in Zinjibar more than three weeks ago, and 260 have been wounded, a military source said this month.

Officials say the militants are connected to Al-Qaeda.

But opponents of the country's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- currently hospitalized in Saudi Arabia -- accuse his government of exaggerating a jihadist threat to ease Western pressure on his 33-year rule.

Yemen is the home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an affiliate of the global network accused of anti-US plots, including an attempt to blow up a US-bound aircraft on Christmas Day 2009.

Saleh, a key US ally in the fight against AQAP, was wounded in a bomb blast at his palace mosque earlier this month and remains hospitalized in Saudi Arabia.

At least 12 militants and four soldiers were killed in two clashes on Sunday in southern Yemen, where Islamists and separatists have launched several attacks during the country's bloody political crisis.

Twelve militants and two soldiers were killed outside Zinjibar -- the capital of the flashpoint southern province of Abyan, a military official said.

In the southern province of Lahej, a local official said two soldiers were killed in a shootout.

Thousands of people have fled the clashes between the army and militants believed to be close to al Qaeda in the southern province of Abyan, after its capital Zinjibar fell to militants last month.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's opponents have accused him of handing over Zinjibar to Islamists to reinforce his threat that the end of his three-decade rule, as demanded by protesters, would amount to ceding the region to al Qaeda.

In Lahej, where both separatists and Islamist forces have as much or more sway than the central government, gunmen have launched bold attacks in recent weeks.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and Western countries fear protracted chaos could give al Qaeda a foothold in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.

Yemen straddles oil export routes and has been a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

Saleh's supporters say he will return in days from Saudi Arabia where he is being treated after being wounded two weeks ago in an attack at his presidential palace.