.- Responding to the widening military conflict, Pope Benedict XVI has prayed for a âhorizon of peace and harmonyâ to arise in Libya. He also assured the people of Libya of his âheartfelt closeness.â
âThe disturbing news coming from Libya has awakened in me fear and trepidation,â Pope Benedict told the faithful in St. Peterâs Square after the traditional Sunday Angelus prayers. He reported that he had offered a âspecial prayerâ about the state of affairs in Libya during his Lenten spiritual exercises last week.
The pontiff called on those in positions of military and political responsibility to have at heart the safety and security of citizens and to ensure access to humanitarian aid.
âI pray for those involved in the dramatic situation in that country,â the Pope said.
The Libyan government, headed by Col. Moammar Ghadafi, has responded with severity to protests and rebel groups which began to oppose him openly on Feb. 17.
NGOs such as the New York City-based Human Rights Watch charged that Libyan government forces have fired upon unarmed civilians, have made arbitrary arrests and have caused the disappearances of âscores of peopleâ since the protests began.
In the rebel capital of Benghazi 95 people were killed and an unknown number injured in a March 19 assault by government forces, CNN reports.
The United States, the United Kingdom and France began to enforce a United Nations-approved no-fly zone on March 19. The allied nationsâ fighter jets, bombers and missiles have hit Libyan military positions in what is being called âOperation Odyssey Dawn.â
Libyan officials said the allied military action left at least 48 people dead.
The Libyan military called for an immediate cease-fire on Sunday.