EU Said Ready For Humanitarian Military Operation In Libya

The European Union is prepared to launch a military operation for humanitarian assistance in Libya if requested by the United Nations, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Michael Mann, chief spokesman for European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, said it is unclear how many troops would be deployed, though he said the number would be "definitely less than 1,000." He said the EU did not have specifics on the mission because it would not materialize without a request from the United Nations.

The Council of the European Union agreed to the operation -- called EUFOR Libya -- earlier this month. If requested, EUFOR Libya would "contribute to the safe movement and evacuation of displaced persons" and support humanitarian agencies in their activities, the council said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters Tuesday that the international Libya Contact Group -- charged with helping map out Libya's future -- will discuss ways Libyan rebels can facilitate the sale of oil from rebel-held areas to international outlets when the contact group meets in Rome next month.

But amid international talks of aid, residents in the war-torn city of Misrata report mounting devastation.

At least 24 people have been killed in the city of Misrata alone this week, an opposition spokesman told CNN Monday. He said another 113 were injured.

The spokesman, who wanted to be identified only as "Mohammed" for safety reasons, said forces loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi have shelled the besieged city incessantly this week.

"They are shelling mortar shells, cluster bombs and splinter mortar shells," Mohammed said. "The splinter mortar shells explode and throw lethal shrapnel, which has caused most of the tragedies."

Much of Misrata is now without electricity. Mohammed said people have been using cell phones for light during surgery.