Turmoil rages in Libya, UN slaps sanctions (Roundup)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

TRIPOLI - Anti-government protesters in Libya seized the third largest city Misurata and most of its oil fields as the UN Security Council slapped sanctions against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime after a brutal crackdown left more than 1,000 civilians dead.

Amid mounting global outrage, the Security Council voted 15-0 Saturday to impose a comprehensive arms embargo, asset freeze and travel bans on Gaddafi and several of his family members and associates.

Council members said they wanted the Libyan strongman to cease killing civilians who have risen in an unprecedented revolt against Gaddafi’s four decades of rule.

India joined other council members to refer the civilian slaughter to the International Criminal Court in Geneva.

In Libya, even as Gaddafi vowed to remain in power, protesters took control of Misurata, some 200 km east of capital Tripoli. A resident told Al Jazeera that troops loyal to Gaddafi had fled the city.

Gaddafi’s forces now control only half of Tripoli, DPA quoted the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat as saying.

His stronghold, the Bab al-Aziziya neighbourhood, is said to be protected by tanks, armoured vehicles and missile launchers.

The UN estimates more than 1,000 people have been killed by Gaddafi’s forces since a pro-democracy wave gripped Libya Feb 14 after the ouster of long-time rulers Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.

The protests, which started in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, have spread to Tripoli.

Media reports said Sunday that anti-Gaddafi mobs had gained control over most of the country’s oil fields.

The UN sanctions came hours after the country’s budding opposition group picked a former top official as its interim leader.

Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, indicated that he and fellow diplomats would support a caretaker administration under former justice minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil, CNN reported.

Jalil quit the government to protest the “bloody situation” and the “use of excessive force” against unarmed protesters.

“The regime no longer has credibility,” Shalgham told the Security Council. “This resolution will be a signal to end the fascist regime. I urge Libyans to renounce Gaddafi,” DPA quoted Shalgham as saying.

The Security Council members have called for the full implementation of the sanctions, imposed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, allowing use of force to implement the sanctions.

Libya would be prohibited from importing arms and related material and all UN members should prevent their nationals from exporting them.

On Saturday, US Ambassador Susan Rice echoed remarks by President Barack Obama, calling Gaddafi to step down.

“This resolution sends a clear signal to the Libyan regime that it must stop the killing of innocent people,” she said.

Earlier Sunday, one of Gaddafi’s sons and a prominent member of his government, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi told the CNN he was confident the regime could survive the unrest.

Tripoli was noticeably tense but largely quiet overnight Saturday, its streets largely barren except for police, armed men in civilian clothing and young people with sticks at some intersections, according to CNN.

The situation at the main airport, about 20 miles south of Tripoli, was far more chaotic.

Several thousand people camped outside in makeshift tents, waiting for the chance to leave the war-torn country, the broadcaster said.

Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al Mahmoudi announced on state television that every family would receive 500 Libyan dinars (about $400) from the government.

Several embassies, including those of Britain and the US, in Tripoli have been closed to ensure the safety of their personnel.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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