The death toll from the conflict in Libya could be as high as 30 000, the US ambassador to Tripoli said.
Gene Cretz told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that estimates of the dead range from 10 000 to 30 000 but it will difficult to determine the total cost in human lives until the fighting is over.
“We keep getting reports, even from contacts in Tripoli and in the west, of bodies that have been uncovered on the beach,” Cretz said. “We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it's over.”
Cretz said there was no sign Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi's forces were adhering to self-declared ceasefires as they continued their assault on the key city of Misurata, which is under control of the rebel opposition.
“Gaddafi and his henchmen have no intention of ceasing the violence and bloodshed,” he said. “Despite the claims of recent days, regime forces have continued to commit atrocities in Misurata.”
Cretz also noted that the opposition Transitional National Council, which controls swaths of eastern parts of Libya and is setting up a makeshift government, deserves international support.
“They continue to say the right things. They are reaching out to the international community. They're trying to be as inclusive as possible,” Cretz said, adding they are “a serious group worthy of support.”
President Barack Obama authorised $25 million in non-lethal assistance for the TNC on Tuesday, coinciding with a Treasury Department announcement allowing oil deals with the opposition that could open the door for millions of dollars in revenue.
The United States, however, has yet to join countries like France and Italy which have recognised the council as the offical government of Libya. The US has also not acted on an opposition request to supply the rebels with arms. - Sapa-dpa