Libyan east hails 'freedom' from Gaddafi

Gaddafi's daughter Aisha denied a report she tried to flee to Malta.

Libyan east hails 'freedom' from Gaddafi

Libyans celebrated the liberation of the east of the country from the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who has vowed to crush the revolt and on Wednesday was trying to assert his grip on the capital Tripoli, in the west.

Lying between Egypt and Tunisia, where a wave of Arab unrest has unseated two veteran presidents, the desert nation of six million which Gaddafi has ruled for 41 years seemed split in two, trapping thousands of foreign workers, jeopardising oil exports and raising fears of tribal conflict and civil war.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the uprising and home to tribes long hostile to the 68-year-old leader, thousands filled the streets, lighting fireworks and waving the red, black and green flag of the king Colonel Gaddafi overthrew in 1969.

"We have been suffering for 41 years," said 45-year-old Hamida Muftah. "Gaddafi has killed people ... We are a very rich country, but most of the people are poorer than poor."

A local medical official said about 320 had been killed in Benghazi since protests against oppression and poverty began.

Libya's Quryna newspaper quoted a military source as saying a bomber crew bailed out and left their aircraft to crash rather than bomb Benghazi. Earlier in the week, two pilots flew their planes to Malta to avoid, they said, attacking their own people.

At the Egyptian border, officials loyal to Gaddafi had gone and local committees were, being organised across eastern towns to provide services, local people said. A lack of organised opposition groups in Libya may make any transition difficult.

"Tripoli quiet"

In a sign that Gaddafi's hold in the west might face a new challenge, a statement on the Internet which purported to be from lawyers and judges in the coastal city of Misrata said they, with help from "honest" military officers, had removed agents of the "oppressive regime" and were taking control.

Some 200 km (120 miles) further west, in Tripoli, which remained largely closed to foreign media, local journalists said streets were calm after sporadic violence in recent days.

Gaddafi's state television channel showed dozens of loyalists waving his portrait and chanting his praises.

"Lots of people are afraid to leave their homes in Tripoli and pro-Gaddafi gunmen are roaming around threatening any people who gather in groups," said Tunisian Marwan Mohammed, who was crossing the border home after leaving the Libyan capital.

Gaddafi's children spoke up in defence of the man who went on television on Tuesday to fulminate against "terrorists" and promise to "cleanse Libya house by house". They also sought to tell viewers foreign media were misreporting the week's events.

"Libyans are the victims of the biggest joke," his son Saif al-Islam, once seen as a reformer, told state television. "So wake up. Everything was lies. The truths start today. You will see it with your own eyes, tomorrow and after tomorrow."

Another son, former professional footballer Saadi, told the Financial Times that Saif al-Islam was drafting a constitution to "bring in new blood to govern our country", adding: "My father would stay as the big father who advises."

He acknowledged aircraft bombed areas around Benghazi. He said his father would regain control of the east: "When the people see the army, they will be afraid."

"Gaddafi's daughter denies report"

Gaddafi's daughter Aisha also appeared on state television, denying a report she tried to flee to Malta. "I am steadfastly here," she said. She added she was unaware of a report she had been dropped by the United Nations as a goodwill ambassador.

Others have deserted Gaddafi's side, however. Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al Abidi and a senior aide to Saif al-Islam joined them: "I resigned from the Gaddafi Foundation on Sunday to express dismay against violence," Youssef Sawani, executive director of the foundation, told Reuters by SMS.

Gaddafi has deployed troops to the west of the capital to try to stop the revolt that started in the east from spreading. In the east, many soldiers have withdrawn from active service.

General Soliman Mahmoud al-Obeidy told Reuters in Tobruk in the east that the Libyan leader was no longer trustworthy. "I am sure he will fall in the coming days," he said.

"International condemnation"

The U.N. Security Council condemned the violence and called for those responsible for attacks on civilians to be held to account.

European Union diplomats in Brussels agreed to prepare for possible sanctions, though took no final decision.

The United States said it might impose sanctions to help end violence which one European minister said may have killed 1,000.

President Barack Obama, who lacks the influence in Libya that U.S. aid gives him over some other Arab states, called for international unity to end the violence. He did not say Gaddafi should go, but said he would be held accountable for any abuses.

"It is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice," Obama told reporters at the White House in his first public comments on the 10-day-old revolt. "The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous," he said.

Agencies

Last Mod: 24 Şubat 2011, 14:52
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