Showdown in Tripoli: Qaddafi appeals for support as rebels close in

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi called upon his supporters to “prepare to defend the motherland”.

Agencies February 26, 2011

TRIPOLI: Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi called upon his supporters on Friday to “prepare to defend the motherland” as his opponents occupied the centre of a town near the capital and were laying makeshift defences to fend off counter-attacks by pro-regime forces, a witness said.

Other witnesses reported heavy gunfire and chaotic scenes in the town of Zawiyah, about 50 km west of the capital on a road leading to the Tunisian border. It appeared to have become the country’s biggest flashpoint for fighting.

Thousands of people are feared dead in a crackdown on protesters, Libya’s deputy UN ambassador says. “There are already thousands of people dead and we expect more,” said the diplomat, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has turned against the Qaddafi regime.

Qaddafi told the cheering crowd from the top of a building, that if necessary arms depots would be thrown open to arm his people for battle. “We will fight and we will beat them,” he said.

Hundreds of people cheered and raised portraits of the ruler in a frenzied demonstration of support which continued after the leader had withdrawn.

Almost the entire east of the North African country has slipped from Qaddafi’s control since a popular uprising began on February 15. Three towns in the Western Mountains region, Yefren, Zenten and Jadu, are no longer under central control, a witness who just returned from the area told Reuters. “All the people in the Western Mountains have started to set up local committees to organise themselves,” the man said.

Reports of more defections were also coming through, with Kadhaf al-Dam, a close aide and cousin of Qaddafi, resigning from “all his official functions,” and several envoys, including the country’s mission leader in Portugal Ibrahim Emdored, joining the protest movement.  Dan quit on Thursday “to protest against the handling of the Libyan crisis.”

A Tripoli resident, who had come back from Zawiyah on Friday, said the town was “fully controlled by the opposition”. “There are no troops there. But the majority of the city’s inhabitants are staying at home,” the resident told Reuters by telephone from Tripoli.

On Friday France became the first country to openly demand the Libyan leader’s ouster, with President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Alain Juppe calling on Qaddafi to step down and spend his last days as head of state.

US, EU plan sanctions

The United States has suspended embassy operations in Libya and is moving forward with unilateral sanctions against the government of Qaddafi, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney told a news conference that Washington would also curtail its limited military cooperation with Libya and that the United States supports suspending Libya from the United Nations.

Earlier European Union nations agreed to slap an arms embargo, assets freezes and travel bans on Libya in a package of sanctions designed to ramp up pressure on Qaddafi’s regime, diplomats said. The sanctions against Qaddafi will come into force in several days after being legally drafted. In the meantime UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on the Security Council to take “decisive action” on Libya. He proposed that the UN Council impose individual targeted sanctions, an arms embargo and ensure accountability for crimes. Agencies

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2011.


G.Din | 10 years ago | Reply @RizwanTKhan: He does have chemical weapons,. And remember how Sadaam Hussein used it to "great" effect on poor Kurds. Muslims do not kill Muslims! Hah!
RizwanTKhan | 10 years ago | Reply This guy should be kicked out on ASAP basis. He is on killing spree. Thank God he doesn't have nuclear or else he would nuke his own countrymen.
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