Libya: Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy vow Gaddafi must go

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Media captionInside the crowded Misrata hospital

The leaders of the US, the UK and France have said in a joint letter that there can be no peace in Libya while Muammar Gaddafi stays in power.

Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy say Nato must maintain military operations to protect civilians and maintain pressure on Col Gaddafi.

To allow him to remain in power would "betray" the Libyan people, they write.

Signs of division remain within Nato, which is struggling to find additional combat aircraft for its strikes.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague met his US counterpart Hillary Clinton at a Nato summit on Friday, before telling the BBC he was "hopeful" more aircraft could eventually be found.

Only a few of Nato's 28 members - including France, the UK, Canada, Belgium, Norway and Denmark - are conducting air strikes.

Italy is thought to have been identified as a key potential contributor.

In Libya on Friday there were unconfirmed reports of rocket strikes by pro-Gaddafi forces on the western rebel-held city of Misrata.

Rebels in Misrata have been holding out against attacks for two months, but Mr Hague stressed that Nato needed to act swiftly to prevent a "massacre" in the city.

The BBC's Orla Guerin, who entered Misrata on Thursday, said staff at a hospital there were battling to treat civilians injured by mortars and rocket fire.

'Pariah state'

The letter from the three leaders, published in the UK's Times newspaper as well as the International Herald Tribune and France's Le Figaro, was an attempt to show a united front against Col Gaddafi.

Signed by US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the letter says Libyans in cities like Misrata and Ajdabiya continue to suffer "terrible horrors at Gaddafi's hands".

While the coalition has no mandate to remove Col Gaddafi by force, "it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power", the leaders say.

To allow him to remain in power "would be an unconscionable betrayal" of Libya's people, they argue, and would make Libya both "a pariah state [and] a failed state".

Nato pilots are enforcing a UN resolution to establish a no-fly zone and to protect civilians in Libya. The country has effectively been split between forces for and against Col Gaddafi since a revolt against his rule began in mid-February.

"So long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds," the letter continues.

"Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders."

The letter holds out the prospect of reconstruction for Libya with the help of the "UN and its members".

But French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet, speaking on French radio, conceded that ousting Col Gaddafi would be "certainly" beyond the scope of the existing UN resolution, and could require a new Security Council vote.

New fighting

Fighting on the ground, as well as Nato bombing missions, has continued while politicians debate the way forward.

Rebels said a rocket attack in Misrata by pro-Gaddafi forces killed 23 people on Thursday, and there were new reports of rocket fire into the city on Friday morning. Neither account could be confirmed.

The BBC's Orla Guerin entered the besieged western Libyan city, visiting a hospital and finding the intensive care unit full of people with serious injuries and multiple shrapnel wounds.

They including a six-year-old girl, our correspondent says. Doctors say 80% of those killed or injured in Misrata are civilians.

The hospital is struggling to keep pace with the attacks, and its emergency ward is a tent in the car park, she reports. Patients are rushed in and out to make way for new arrivals.

Medical supplies are coming ashore here but there has been heavy shelling in the port area, raising fears that Col Gaddafi wants to cut this last link to the outside world, she adds.

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