* Rebels say rain of rockets hit city, killing 23
* Clinton says NATO must stay united
* Rescue ship heads to Misrata
* NATO bombs Tripoli, Gaddafi tours city
(Adds Gaddafi appearance, Hague, Koussa, NATO bombing)
By Mussab al-Khairalla and Alexander Dziadosz
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya, April 14 Libyan rebels
begged for more NATO air strikes on Thursday and said they faced
a massacre from government forces, who blasted the besieged city
of Misrata with a barrage of missiles.
NATO foreign ministers met and pledged their support for
more air strikes, but failed to paper over cracks in their
alliance over how to proceed in a three-week old campaign that
has failed to dislodge Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
NATO planes bombed the capital Tripoli, where Libyan state
television showed footage of a defiant Gaddafi cruising through
the streets in a green safari jacket and sunglasses, pumping his
fists and waving from an open-top vehicle.
Rebels said a hail of rockets fired by besieging forces into
a residential district of Misrata, Libya's third largest city,
had killed 23 civilians, mostly women and children.
"Over 200 Grad missiles fell on the port area, including
residential neighbourhoods near the port. They shelled this area
because the port is Misrata's only window to the outside world,"
a rebel spokesman using the name Ghassan said by telephone.
"The destruction there was huge. I was there and saw for
myself," he said, adding that the port had been shut.
Aid organisations warn of a humanitarian disaster in
Misrata, the lone major rebel bastion in western Libya, where
hundreds of civilians are said to have died in a six-week siege.
In Tripoli, Reuters journalists heard four blasts and
anti-aircraft fire and saw plumes of smoke to the southeast when
NATO aircraft struck.
A NATO official said pilots had hit an anti-aircraft battery
40 km (25 miles) south of the city and two other targets "closer
to the city centre". Libyan television said there were civilian
casualties. This could not be confirmed.
STRUGGLE FOR UNITY
The Western alliance has struggled to maintain unity,
especially since Washington took a back seat in the air campaign
on March 31, reducing its role in strikes and handing command to
NATO. Britain and France complain that allies are not
contributing enough firepower.
NATO foreign ministers met in Berlin, where U.S. Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about "atrocities" in
Misrata and called for "resolve and unity" against Gaddafi, but
gave no hint Washington would resume a bigger military role.
The NATO foreign ministers promised in a joint declaration
to provide "all necessary resources and maximum operational
flexibility" for the air campaign to maintain a "high
operational tempo against legitimate targets".
But several allies rebuffed calls from France and Britain to
contribute more to the air attacks, conducted under a United
Nations mandate to protect civilians. U.S. officials denied
allied commanders had requested greater resources.
France cited Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden among
allies who could do more. NATO commanders say they need about 10
more strike aircraft.
More on Middle East unrest: [nTOPMEAST] [nLDE71O2CH]
Libya Graphics link.reuters.com/neg68r
Interactive graphic link.reuters.com/puk87r
"MASSACRE" IN MISRATA
"A massacre ... will take place here if NATO does not
intervene strongly," a rebel spokesman in Misrata told Reuters
by phone. Reports of casualties are hard to verify in the
Al Jazeera television showed hundreds of Misrata residents
demonstrating after the dawn attack. "The blood of martyrs will
not be in vain," they chanted, waving the rebel flag.
The International Organisation for Migration said a small
rescue ship had reached Misrata to begin evacuating nearly 8,300
stranded migrants there, many in "an extremely poor state".
"We are not sure whether we can offload the aid or not,
given the shelling," said spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said.
Migrants from Egypt, Niger, Bangladesh, Ghana, Sudan and
Nigeria have been stranded in Misrata, living in the open for
weeks with limited food and no clean water. The IOM ship can
carry only 800 people at a time and funds cover only two trips.
Libyan state television said NATO aircraft also hit the
al-Assah area, 170 km west of Tripoli. It gave no details.
"NOT UNREASONABLE TO MAKE CONTRIBUTIONS"
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the
Berlin meeting he was hopeful more countries would contribute to
the strike force. "It's not unreasonable to ask other
nations...to make additional contributions," he said.
Spain said it had no plan to join the seven NATO states that
have conducted ground strikes. Italy, Libya's former colonial
power, expressed reluctance to launch attacks.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet has said Gaddafi's
attacks cannot be stopped without U.S. participation in strikes
on his tanks and artillery.
Amid a flurry of diplomacy over Libya, U.N. Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton,
Arab League head Amr Moussa and officials from the African Union
and Organisation of the Islamic Conference pressed for a
ceasefire and a political solution after meeting in Cairo.
NATO members are also divided over whether to arm the
rebels. Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said this was
not allowed under the U.N. resolution authorising strikes.
France says the resolution permits arming the rebels,
although it has no plans yet to do so. A U.S. official said
there was no consensus on whether to arm the rebels, but
reiterated President Barack Obama's statement that he "hasn't
ruled it out and hasn't ruled it in".
Britain said former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa,
who fled to the West, would no longer be subject to European
Union sanctions, in a move to encourage other defectors.
(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed in Cairo, Hamid Ould Ahmed
in Algiers, Richard Lough in Rabat, James Mackenzie in Rome,
Brian Rohan in Paris and David Brunnstrom, Matt Spetalnick and
Adrian Croft in Berlin; Writing by Barry Moody and Peter Graff;
editing by David Stamp)