TRIPOLI, Libya — The United Nations has reached an agreement with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s government on providing humanitarian aid to the country, the U.N. secretary general said Monday.
Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. would set up a humanitarian presence in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. However, Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said late Sunday the agreement also included setting up a humanitarian corridor to the city of Misrata, the last rebel stronghold in western Libya.
Misrata has been besieged by Gadhafi forces for more than 50 days, with rebels clinging to positions near the port, their only lifeline to the outside world. In recent days, Gadhafi loyalists have pounded the city with rockets and tank shells, according to witnesses and hospital officials who reported 17 people were killed Sunday.
Libyan government officials deny heavy weapons are being used against Misrata.
Ibrahim told reporters late Sunday that the government is ready to allow humanitarian assistance to reach the city of 300,000. The fighting, which erupted two months ago, has split Libya into a Gadhafi-controlled west and a rebel-run east, with the front line shifting almost daily in the middle.
“The agreement (with the U.N.) is to provide safe passage for people to leave Misrata, to provide aid, food and medicine,” Ibrahim said. He said the deal also called for free access of international aid agencies and ensuring that electricity, water and other services are provided to Misrata. City residents have said supplies have been disrupted by the fighting.
In a news conference in Budapest, Hungary, said the agreement with the Gadhafi government was reached Sunday by his special envoy to Libya and Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief.
Amos, who was in Benghazi on Monday, said she had received assurances from Gadhafi’s government authorities that the U.N. would be allowed in to Misrata.
“What I would like to do is get access to Misrata, not just from the sea, but also from the road,” Amos told reporters. “We have very little sense of what is going on across the city.”
Ban said the U.N. already is providing aid in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. He said the basic needs of tens of thousands of people in Libya are not being met.