Doha meeting on Libya insists Gaddafi must step down

Libya’s rebels stress Turkey’s initiative must call for Gaddafi departure

Mubarak and his two sons remanded under 15-day custody for questioning

Former parliament speaker Sorour, fiery lawyer Mortada Mansour under custody, former petroleum minister’s funds, property arrested

A group of western powers and West Asian states for the first time called on Muammar Gaddafi to step aside.

However, Nato countries squabbled publicly over stepping up air strikes to help topple him. In a victory for Britain and France, which are leading the air campaign in Libya and pushed for an unequivocal call for regime change, the “contact group” of some 16 European and Western nations, plus the UN, the Arab League and the African Union, said Gaddafi must go.

“Gaddafi and his regime has lost all legitimacy and he must leave power allowing the Libyan people to determine their future,” a final statement obtained by Reuters said. The wording was much tougher than at a previous conference two weeks ago and gave stronger backing to insurgents fighting to end Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

Participants said they would work to create a financial mechanism to help rebels run the eastern region they control.

The group said the rebel national council “in contrast with the current regime ... is a legitimate interlocutor, representing the aspirations of the Libyan people”.

It called for a political settlement, to be decided by the Libyan people, an end to attacks against civilians, and the withdrawal of government forces from towns they had occupied or besieged, including the beleaguered western city of Misrata.

The group also agreed to provide “material support” to the rebels. Although the statement did not give details, diplomats said some nations might interpret this as supplying arms — a key request of the outgunned insurgents.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani appeared to suggest the Gulf nation could consider supplying arms, telling reporters material support could include “all the other needs, including defense equipment”.

Qatar is a leading Arab supporter of the uprising which broke out a month ago in Libya, inspired by popular revolts that toppled the leaders of neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.

At the eastern front, rebels at Ajdabiya said they were exchanging rocket fire with Gaddafi’s forces from a point about 40km east of the long-contested oil port of Brega, which the government holds. Rebels also reported heavier fighting in Misrata, their only bastion in western Libya, and said they were making progress against government forces besieging the city.

Libyan television said Nato planes had bombed Misrata’s main street, scene of repeated battles between rebel defenders and government troops. It said people were killed, without giving details. The television also said alliance planes had attacked Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte, east of Misrata.

While there was agreement in Doha on the principle of removing Gaddafi, there were divisions over how to proceed.

Britain and France, western Europe’s two main military powers, are delivering most of the air strikes on Gaddafi’s amour, with other Nato states playing a smaller role.

There is increasing frustration in Paris and London that air strikes have neither tipped the balance of the war in favor of the rebels nor ended devastating shelling of Misrata. British foreign secretary William Hague called for more alliance members to join attacks on ground targets.

Libyan rebels require further support that may include funding and equipment to defend civilians against the forces of Muammar Qaddafi, allied nations said following a meeting in Qatar.

A United Nations resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya provides for self-defense and Qatar would “look into” supplying equipment for this, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim Al-Thani told reporters. The so-called Libyan contact group said it was looking into a “temporary financial mechanism” so the rebels can access government assets frozen abroad, in a statement issued in the capital, Doha.

The group, which includes the U.S., the U.K., France and other countries lending military support, agreed that “Qaddafi and his regime had lost all legitimacy and he must leave power, allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future,” it said in the statement.

In London, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC that the U.K. will provide body armor to rebels. His meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris is focusing on examining ways to help the Libyan opposition and establishing how NATO can increase its military actions to put “real pressure on Qaddafi” and stop the “appalling murder of civilians,” he told Sky News.

Libya has been effectively split in two since the early stages of the two-month conflict, which has helped push oil prices up 25 percent.

NATO air strikes against Qaddafi since March 19 haven’t stopped artillery attacks and sniper fire on cities such as Misrata, in the west of the country, or enabled the rebels to take and permanently hold strategic towns such as Ajdabiya and the oil port of Ras Lanuf in central Libya.

Crude oil for May delivery advanced 86 cents, or 0.8 percent, to settle at $107.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It reached a 2 1/2-year high of $112.79 a barrel on April 8.

Libya holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves. Qatar confirmed that it is marketing Libyan oil on behalf of the opposition and is providing energy products to Benghazi.

The rebels’ Interim Transitional National Council, which had a delegation in Doha, earlier appealed to the UN to declare Misrata an “internationally protected zone” and help prevent “a massacre of men, women and children” in the besieged city.

“There is fighting going on and electricity and water have been cut off throughout the city,” Abdulhamid Elmadani, secretary-general of the Libyan Red Crescent, said in an interview in Benghazi, the rebels’ eastern stronghold. “People are dependent on wells whose water is not fit for drinking. There is no hospital, more like a complex of clinics.”

Qaddafi’s government vowed to “confront anyone trying to get close to Misrata under the pretext of humanitarian aid,” according to Al Arabiya television. More than 1,000 people have been killed and “several thousand” wounded in the city in the six-week siege, according to Suleiman Fortia, a spokesman for the rebels’ council.

While Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere told reporters in Doha that he “doesn’t feel” the UN resolution provides for arming rebels, France and the U.K. are among North Atlantic Treaty Organization members calling for the alliance to do more to thwart Qaddafi’s forces.

The option of arming Libyan rebels is “on the table” for discussion among the allies, the Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Maurizio Massari, told reporters before the meeting in Doha.

International pressure on Qaddafi will intensify, and “sitting tight won’t be a successful strategy for this regime,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News.

He also said that more strike-capable aircraft would be “useful,” highlighting the tensions within NATO about whether it is being forceful enough since the U.S. handed over command and withdrew from strike missions intended to protect civilians.

NATO reported flying 60 possible ground-strike missions, up from 59 the day before. NATO forces have destroyed a third of Qaddafi’s military capacity, the alliance’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told Al Jazeera television from Doha.

U.S. fighter jets have flown 97 missions over Libya since April 4 to choke off Qaddafi’s air defenses as part of the NATO military operation, a Pentagon spokesman said in Washington.

Those missions were conducted by a contingent of six Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 fighter jets and five Boeing Co. EA-18 Growler electronic warfare planes provided to NATO, according to Marine Corps Colonel Dave Lapan. The planes dropped munitions to wipe out an air defense site on three occasions, he said.

The U.S. has conducted 35 percent of all types of sorties, 77 percent of air-refueling flights and 27 percent of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions since April 1, Lapan said.

The Pentagon is seeking to deflect concern that reduced U.S. participation in the Libya operation is hampering NATO’s ability to protect civilians and provide the rebels with a military edge.

Fitch Ratings downgraded Libya’s credit rating by three levels to B from BB, citing “extreme political instability, a collapse in oil production and the freeze on Libya’s sovereign external assets following the imposition of UN sanctions.”

It also withdrew the rating, saying it has “insufficient information to maintain coverage.” Libya has no sovereign debt.

Meanwhile, Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons were ordered to be put under custody for 15 days, with all other top aides of the former president under corruption investigations.

State TV said Mubarak and his two sons would be questioned on April 19. Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, face charges of use of violence against protesters, power abuse and embezzlement of public funds.

The two sons arrived at the Tora prison in southern Cairo. Mubarak, who reportedly suffered a mild heart attack during questioning, was still in Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital. Official media said his condition was stable.

Fathi Sorour, former speaker of the People's Assembly, was detained for 15 days over corruption accusations.

Up till now, all key figures of the former regime, including former General Secretary of Egypt's National Democratic Party (NDP) and former Shura Council speaker Safwat el-Sherif, former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, former chief of Presidential cabinet Zakaria Azmi and former interior, tourism, housing, trade and industry ministers, have all been detained pending investigations.

Mubarak's sons "turned in their civil outfits, mobile phones, wallets and all other belongings to be put inside the prison's safe" after they got out of police vehicles, the official MENA news agency said.

Looking "bewildered and distressed," they declined to eat breakfast and only asked for bottles of water from the prison's cafeteria, according to the report.

The Revolution Youth Coalition, a group formed after the anti- government protests, said a million-man protest slated for Friday would not take place after the army took serious steps to probe the corruption, said MENA.

The coalition said they sought a fair trial for Mubarak, his family and the officials in all crimes that harmed the Egyptians.

Two months after the fall of Mubarak, protestors had been demanding the immediate trial of the former president and his family. They felt unsatisfied with the slow prosecution process and held a mass protest on April 8, with demands including the resignation of the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Hussein Tantawi.

Clashes occurred in the early hours on April 9 when troops dispersed the protestors who wanted to overstay in the square and defy a curfew decree, one was killed and dozens were injured.

In response to the increasing pressure from the protestors, Egypt's General Prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud issued a summon order to question Mubarak and his two sons.

Mubarak was forced to end his rule on Feb. 11 after 18-day nationwide demonstrations, during which some 384 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured.

Mubarak denied all the accusations against him and his family in an audio speech aired by the Al-Arabiya TV.

In his first address regarding the corruption charges, Mubarak said he had no assets or bank accounts abroad, the wealth of his sons was not gained through illegal means either.

It remains unclear about whether the steps in recent days would calm down the protestors led by youth groups or not.

Their new demands also included the establishment of a presidential council for the transitional period.

The army has said the country would hold parliamentary elections in September and elect a president one or two months later. The army will transfer the power after the elections.

The political turmoil has dealt a heavy blow to the country's economy, especially its pillar sector of tourism. The sector will see a 25 percent drop in revenue this year, Minister of Tourism Mounir Nour said.

The country's Finance Minister Samir Radwan predicted the GDP growth in the current fiscal year to end in June will be 2.5 percent to 3 percent.

Egypt's public prosecutor ordered that Safwat al-Sherif, former head of the upper house of parliament, be detained for 15 days as part of a probe into accusations of graft, the state news agency MENA said. Skip related content.

A special panel formed to uncover illicit gains also summoned Fathi Sorour, former speaker of the lower house of parliament, for questioning over accusations he had amassed large amounts of money illegally, MENA reported.

Sherif and Sorour were senior members of former President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party and among his closest aides.

Both are main targets of reformers seeking tough action against figures of the past administration.

The panel, chaired by senior justice ministry official Essam el-Gawahri, has been investigating a string of businessmen and former officials and summoned Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal for questioning.

Sherif, who was taken to Torah Prison in southern Cairo, was accused of "exploiting a public position for his own benefit and the benefit of his family, which led to their accumulating large wealth," MENA quoted a panel member as saying.

Egyptian authorities have remanded in custody the former head of crowned Cairo soccer club Zamalek SC in the first post-Mubarak arrest of a senior football figure.

Controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour is being held for 15 days as authorities investigate his role in the February 2 attack on anti-government protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. These attacks have been attributed to supporters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; they were riding camels and donkeys. Several protesters who forced Mr. Mubarak to resign on February 11 were killed in the attack dubbed the “Battle of the Camels.”

Prosecutors, citing eyewitnesses, charge that Mr. Mansour aided the attacks. Mr. Mansour has denied any involvement in the attack.

He is being held in Tora prison alongside several other prominent figures, including Mr. Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Ala’a, suspected of corruption and responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 365 people killed in the 18 days of mass anti-government protests in January and February that toppled the Egyptian leader.

The memory of Cairo’s “Battle of the Camels” is engraved in Ahmed Fondu’s mind and on a scar on his forehead.

It marks a milestone in the breaking down of the barrier of fear that long kept Egyptians from taking to the streets to demand change.

“We told people not to run away,” Mr. Fondu, a leader of the Ultras White Knights (UWK) – the militant, highly organized, street-battle hardened Zamalek soccer fan group–recalls as he and his group fended off the camel attack. We told them that the attacks may have bullets, but we have stones. Lots of people were injured. The camel riders were animals, but we caught 17 of them. We locked them overnight into the Sadat metro station and handed them the next day to the army.”

“I jumped on to one of the camels. The rider didn’t resist, he knew he was doing something wrong,” said Ahmed Morgan, a heavy-set UWK leader who wears thick glasses.

Mr. Mansour is among several soccer figures under fire. Fans are demanding the resignation of Zamalek board member Ibrahim Hassan and his brother Hossam, the team’s coach, for publicly supporting Mr. Mubarak, while they were manning the frontlines on Tahrir Square defending protesters against attacks by police and Mr. Mubarak’s supporters. Egyptian national team coach Hassan Shehata has also come under fire for coming out in favor of Mr. Mubarak during the protests.

Fans have denounced soccer players for their failure to join them in the anti-Mubarak protests.

“We will never forgive them for supporting Mubarak. The Hassans are whores,” said Muhamed Hassan, another UWK leader, who was injured in fighting the police in Tahrir Square.

Ibrahim Hassan is a particular focus of fan ire because he led a demonstration against the protesters and called for preventing food and medical supplies from reaching the square where protesters camped out for 18 days until Mr. Mubarak resigned.

Mr. has repeatedly said that he supported the protesters demand for an end to corruption but did not want to see Mr. Mubarak humiliated.

Prosecutors are also looking into corruption in Egyptian soccer.

A number of senior officials, including Egyptian Football Association president Samir Zaher, National Sports Council Chairman Hassan Saqr, national goalkeeper coach Ahmed Soliman and the head of Al Ahly SC, Egypt’s most popular club, Hassan Hamdi, are reported to be under investigation.

A former political prisoner who was jailed for 12 years by the government of former President Hosni Mubarak last month accused Mr. Soliman of assaulting and beating him in prison.

Magdi Zaki, who was detained for 17 years, said the incident happened when Mr. Soliman, widely believed to be an undercover Egyptian police officer, intervened in an altercation between Mr. Zaki and a police informer. The police are widely despised as the henchmen of Mubarak’s repressive regime.

In a video posted on YouTube, Mr. Zaki points to scars from stitches on his face and head, which he says were the result of Mr. Soliman’s beatings. Mr. Soliman has yet to comment on the allegation.

For much of his time in prison, the dreaded State Security Investigations SSI, whose offices were last month raided by UWK members and other protesters, held Mr. Zaki.

“I spent 12 years in the political section of Liman Abu Zaabal prison - without charge, without visits. When I saw my two kids I did not recognize them and they did not recognize me. But worst of all was the month I spent in the state security building,” Egyptian media quoted Mr. Zaki as saying.