UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Wednesday for an immediate ceasefire by all parties in Libya, where the troops of leader Muammar Gaddafi are advancing against rebel forces in the east.
A statement read out by U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban was "gravely concerned" about signs of a forthcoming government assault on the eastern city of Benghazi.
Bombarding such a city "would massively place civilian lives at risk," the statement said, adding, "The secretary-general is urging all parties in this conflict to accept an immediate ceasefire."
The statement said Ban spoke by telephone late on Tuesday with Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa but gave no details of their discussions.
A new U.N. special envoy for Libya, Abdelilah al-Khatib, left Libya on Wednesday after two days of talks in Tripoli in which he called for a "firm and unambiguous commitment" by the government to end hostilities and ensure humanitarian access, Nesirky said.
Ban himself is due to travel to Libya's neighbors Tunisia and Egypt at the weekend and will be briefed in the region by Khatib, U.N. officials said.
The U.N. statement repeated earlier warnings that those responsible for "continuous use of military forces against civilians" in Libya would be held accountable.
(Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Mohammad Zargham)