- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — The part of Libya under Moammar Gadhafi’s control is wracked by shortages in fuel, food and cash despite a veneer of normalcy, according to a U.N. fact-finding mission.

In a report late Monday, the United Nations said its weeklong mission to the country identified a lack of fuel, rising food prices, a strained medical system, and a cash crunch as some of the problems besetting Col. Gadhafi’s government.

“Although the mission observed aspects of normalcy in Tripoli, members identified pockets of vulnerability where people need urgent humanitarian assistance,” Humanitarian Coordinator Laurence Hart said.

The U.N. mission concluded its work Sunday.

The U.N. said the medical system is strained not only from casualties but also from the departure of thousands of foreign health workers that kept the system running.

Libya’s acute fuel crisis is also a major problem, the U.N. found, with massive lines for gas at stations despite a fuel rationing system.

The U.N. quoted Libyan experts claiming that supplies might run out in two weeks.

The Gadhafi regime and Libya’s rebels have been locked in a stalemate on various fronts across the country, despite a NATO bombing campaign directed against government forces. The rebels control eastern Libya and pockets in the west, while Col. Gadhafi clings to the rest, including the capital of Tripoli.

NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said Tuesday the bombing campaign, now in its fifth month, will continue as long as needed and that Col. Gadhafi cannot “wait us out.”

When NATO took command of operations, it had expected that a sharp blow would quickly persuade Col. Gadhafi to yield power.

Amid the deadlock, there may be an emerging international consensus that Col. Gadhafi could stay in Libya if he resigns.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday signed on to the idea first floated last week by his French counterpart. The White House has said the decision is up to the Libyan people.

The Libyan rebels have been divided on the issue. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council, was quoted twice this month, most recently Monday, as saying he would consider such an arrangement acceptable.

However, each time, he quickly backtracked, in a possible sign of division among the rebels.

The Libyan government has remained defiant. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi dismissed the notion that Col. Gadhafi could ever step down.

The U.N. has passed sanctions against the regime that make importing fuel and goods difficult, and at least 30 countries have recognized the rebels as the country’s legitimate representatives.

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