Pressure mounts on Gaddafi to quit

2011-02-28 09:54

Nalut - Pressure mounted on Monday on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as anti-regime forces overran towns in his traditional western stronghold, after world leaders called on him to end his 41-year rule.

As top international diplomats gathered in Geneva for a meeting over the crisis, there were increasing signs the Libyan strongman's grip on power was slipping even further.

Protest leaders on Sunday established a transitional "national council" in several eastern and western cities seized from the Gaddafi regime and called on the army to help them take the capital Tripoli.

The United States said it was prepared to offer "any kind of assistance" to Libyans seeking to overthrow Gaddafi as his opponents piece together a transitional body comprising representatives from the liberated cities.

The unrest in the oil-rich North African state has set off a "humanitarian emergency", the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, as almost 100 000 migrant workers fled Libya in a mass exodus.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the calls of world leaders, including President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, for him to quit.

"We are just at the beginning of what will follow Gaddafi," she said.

"First we have to see the end of his regime and with no further bloodshed," she said, noting Washington was eager for his ouster "as soon as possible".

"We want him to leave."

Speaking ahead of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Clinton said she would meet many of her counterparts to craft humanitarian and political responses as Libyans try to "organise themselves post-Gaddafi".

Gaddafi family assets

At the weekend, the UN Security Council imposed a travel and assets ban on Gaddafi’s regime and ordered a probe into possible crimes against humanity after at least 1 000 people were killed in a crackdown by his forces.

London said it had frozen Gaddafi’s family assets in Britain, amid newspaper reports these amount to about £20bn in liquid assets, mostly in London.

Australia is investigating claims Gaddafi’s family has stashed millions of dollars in assets down under, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said on Monday. Canberra has launched a forensic probe to track down any assets the crumbling regime may have secretly built up in Australia.

A community organiser, Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, told reporters in Benghazi on Sunday that a transitional "national council" had been set up in cities seized from the regime.

"The creation of a national council has been announced in all freed cities of Libya," he said.

The council is the "face of Libya in the transitional period", he said, adding consultations were under way on the body's composition and duties.

"The people of Libya will liberate their cities," Ghoqa said. "We are counting on the army to liberate Tripoli."

On Saturday, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who quit Gaddafi’s regime on February 21, said a transitional government would lead Libya for three months, before an election.

Read more on:    barak obama  |  hillary clinton  |  muammar gaddafi  |  uk  |  libya  |  us  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  libya protests
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