Libyan Refugees Flee Fighting By Land And Sea

Fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi is forcing thousands of refugees to flee western Libya on foot to the Tunisian border and by boat to Europe, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Rebels said that over 40 Grad rockets had hit the rebel-held town of Zintan in the Western Mountains late on Tuesday, and aid deliveries to the western port of Misrata have been hindered by artillery fire and mines near the harbor entrance. Rebel spokesmen said fighting had flared again in Misrata's eastern suburbs, but that intense air strikes by NATO planes appeared to have won the port, the city's lifeline, a respite in shelling by forces loyal to the Libyan leader.

In Tripoli, witnesses heard two loud explosions late on Tuesday but there was no explanation of their cause. Gaddafi, who seized power in a 1969 coup, has not been seen in public since a NATO missile attack on Saturday on a house in Tripoli, which killed his youngest son and three grandchildren.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said Gaddafi was alive and in good health and had ""not at all"" been hurt in the NATO strike. ""He met today a number of tribal leaders,"" Kaim said.

Asked when Gaddafi would appear publicly amid questions over whether he survived the blast, Kaim said ""This is up to him, his security people ... He has been targeted four times."" Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in his strongest public comments yet on the power struggle in Libya, said ""Gaddafi should step down right away and leave the administration to Libyan people.""

""Libya is not the property of a single person or family,"" Erdogan told a news conference in Istanbul, appealing to Gaddafi to realize how his people were suffering. Erdogan has been urging Gaddafi to quit since early March.The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said an exodus from the Western Mountains region had resumed, with Libyan families fleeing into southern Tunisia.

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