TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya denied allegations on Thursday that it had cut off water and electricity supplies to the rebel-held city of Misrata.
“We heard those rumours that the government has intentionally cut off supplies,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim. “It’s just a technical problem because of damage and looting.”
Misrata residents say it is under attack by government forces who have severed their basic supplies and effectively besieged the last major rebel holdout in western Libya.
Speaking alongside Kaim, officials in charge of basic utilities said that water and electricity supplies as well as telecommunication services had indeed been cut off to Misrata for the last four days but purely for technical reasons.
“We did not cut it off,” Omar al-Mislati, planning manager for the state water company, told reporters.
He said up to 70,000 people in Misrata — a city of about 300,000 — had no access to water due a technical problem and damage caused by some of the fighting.
Mustafa Hassan, an official at the state electricity company, said: “Due to the crisis in Misrata, power supplies to Misrata have been substantially damaged.”
“I strongly disagree with those who say it was intentionally cut off,” he said, adding that 10,000 people in Misrata had no electricity as a result.
Rebels and residents in Misrata have told Reuters Gaddafi’s forces resumed their attack on Wednesday despite earlier Western air strikes aimed at protecting civilians. Kaim denied the government was involved in any military operations.
“We believe the ceasefire is for all, not only for the regular army,” he said. “The rebels, the armed militia should not be benefited by the air strikes conducted by coalition forces. The air strikes should stop immediately.”