BENGHAZI, Libya — U.S. Sen. John McCain called for increased military support for Libya’s rebels Friday, including weapons, training and stepped-up airstrikes, in a full-throated endorsement of the opposition in its fight to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
In the Libyan capital, meanwhile, a senior official said government troops would pull back from the besieged rebel-held city of Misrata and allow local armed tribesmen to take up the fight. The apparent change in tactics came a day after the U.S. began flying armed drones to bolster NATO airstrikes, and having the tribesmen take up the fight could make it harder for the Predators to distinguish them from Misrata’s civilians or the rebels.
McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the United States and other nations should recognize the opposition’s political leadership as the “legitimate voice of the Libyan people.” The White House disagreed, saying it was for the Libyan people to decide who their leaders are.
McCain also called the rebels “patriots” with no links to al-Qaida, in contrast to what some critics have suggested, and added they should receive Gadhafi assets that were frozen by other countries.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said in Iraq that although the timing was hard to predict, the eventual ouster of Gadhafi and his family from power “is certain.”
Tepco chief fails to get assurance on restarting nuclear station
TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company at the center of Japan’s nuclear disaster, failed Friday to get an assurance from Fukushima prefecture’s governor that a second plant in the area can be restarted.
Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu met Gov. Yuhei Sato in the prefectural office in Fukushima city to apologize for the accident, said Katsuhiro Kiko, a spokesman at the local government. Shimizu, who was refused meetings with the governor on April 11 and March 22, outlined plans to bring the crisis under control.
Sato told reporters after the meeting that Tepco can’t restart nuclear power plants without safety guarantees, according to Kiko.
Tepco is trying to contain radiation spewing from its Fukushima Dai-ichi plant after a magnitude 9 quake on March 11 unleashed a tsunami that flooded the station, knocking out cooling systems. Its second plant in the prefecture was safely shut down in the disaster and accounts for about 7 percent of Tepco’s capacity.
The central government Friday started enforcing a no-entry zone within 12 miles of Dai-ichi as a public health measure after residents returned to the area to check their homes. Dai-ichi is located about 135 miles north of Tokyo. Tepco’s Fukushima Dai-Ni plant is about seven miles south of the Dai-ichi plant.
Bomb kills 5 border police in southern Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — At least five border policemen were killed and one wounded when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said Friday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Taliban militants mostly have been blamed — or have taken credit — for other recent attacks.
“The incident happened in the border town of Spin Boldak late Thursday afternoon, when the police were on patrol,” said Ghorzang, a border officer who, like most Afghans, goes by one name.
The district of Spin Boldak, which is on the border with Pakistan, has been the site of several insurgent attacks on Afghan and coalition forces. In January, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a public bath, killing 17 people and wounding 23, including the police commander who was the target.
In addition, insurgent attacks killed one NATO service member Thursday and one Friday in eastern Afghanistan, according to statements the coalition forces issued in Kabul. The statements gave no further details about the locations of the attacks or the troops’ nationalities. Mostly U.S. forces serve in that part of the country.
Violence is rising as the Taliban intensify attacks on foreign and Afghan troops in the run-up to the security transition from U.S.-led NATO troops to Afghan forces, scheduled to start this summer.