NATO strikes command center at Gadhafi compound

By Michelle Faul

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 28 2011 8:55 a.m. MDT

A plume of smoke rises to the sky in the background as a media worker deals with equipment after an airstrike in Tripoli, Libya, on Saturday, May 28, 2011.

Ivan Sekretarev, Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO airstrikes struck a command and control center at Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli on Saturday, as the newly created rebel administration warned it was fast running out of money because countries that promised financial aid have not come through.

Ali Tarhouni, the rebel finance minister, complained that many countries that pledged aid have instead sent a string of businessmen looking for contracts from the oil-rich country.

"They are very vocal in terms of (offering financial) help but all that we have seen is that they are ... looking for business," Tarhouni told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Tarhouni recently returned to Benghazi, the rebel bastion, from a trip overseas to drum up aid that included a visit to Rome where the contact group on Libya promised to set up a fund to speedily help finance the rebel administration.

"I think even our friends do not understand the urgency of the situation. Either they don't understand, or they don't care," Tarhouni said.

Tarhouni singled out Qatar and Kuwait for their "generous, very generous help" but did not say if those countries had sent money. Qatar is the only Arab nation to send jet fighters to help NATO enforce a U.N.-designated no-fly zone in Libya.

Tarhouni also praised France, which was the driving force behind the U.N. no-fly zone. But "other than that, everybody is just talking," he said. "So far, nothing has come through and I am fast running out of cash."

Tarhouni emphasized that the rebels' National Transitional Council will be signing no long-term contracts. While the rebel administration will honor previously signed contracts, Tarhouni indicated a new democratically elected government might do otherwise.

"Right now, I am not going to sign any contract that has any consequences for the future of Libya, with the exception of what I need in terms of food, medicine, fuel," he said.

Meanwhile, an alliance spokesman said NATO fighter jets struck Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli in the early hours Saturday. He said the Libyan leader was not a target and there was no way to know if he was there at the time of the attack.

The spokesman said that around noon a vehicle storage area in the same area was hit.

The strike sent a shuddering boom through Tripoli and rattled windows. Such a daylight attack is fairly unusual since NATO began its aerial attacks over Libya three months ago.

Airstrikes over the past week have pounded the large barracks area that lies close to the Gadhafi compound. The same compound was badly damaged by U.S. warplanes 25 years ago in response to a bombing that had killed two U.S. servicemen at a German disco.

Saturday's airstrike came after leaders at a summit of the Group of Eight world powers reiterated that Gadhafi had to leave power.

Russia, a leading critic of the NATO bombing campaign and one-time Gadhafi ally offered to mediate a deal for the Libyan leader to leave the country.

Speaking at the summit in Deauville, France, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,said he was sending an envoy to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi immediately to start negotiating, and that talks with the Libyan government could take place later.

National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told reporters in Benghazi on Saturday that the rebels would accept negotiations led by anyone willing to find a solution, though they will accept nothing less than the departure of Gadhafi and his sons.

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