Facing seemingly insurmountable pressure in Libya and abroad to stand down,
Muammar Gaddafi remained defiant Tuesday, dispatching forces to a western border
area amid fears that the most violent Arab revolt yet may grow bloodier and
spark a humanitarian crisis.
The veteran ruler’s son, Saif al-Islam,
warned the West against launching military action to topple Gaddafi, and said
the veteran ruler would not step down or go into exile.
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against Libya is not acceptable. There’s no reason, but if they want...
we are ready, we are not afraid,” al-Islam told Sky television. “We live
here, we die here.”
Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly unanimously
suspended Libya’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council because of violence
by Libyan forces against protesters.
The resolution was adopted by
consensus in the 192-nation General Assembly on the basis of a recommendation of
the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
welcomed the assembly’s move to suspend Libya’s membership in the council, the
rights panel’s decision to set up an inquiry to investigate human rights abuses
in Libya, and the Security Council’s referral of Libya to the International
“These actions send a strong and important message – a
message of great consequence within the region and beyond – that there is no
impunity, that those who commit crimes against humanity will be punished, that
fundamental principles of justice and accountability shall prevail,” Ban
Indeed, Gaddafi’s legitimacy abroad seems to be dwindling further
by the day. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told lawmakers on Tuesday that
Libya could either become a democracy or face “protracted civil war.”
Moscow, a Kremlin source suggested Gaddafi should step down, calling him a
“living political corpse.”
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations,
said Washington would apply pressure on Gaddafi until he bows out, work to
stabilize oil prices and avert a humanitarian crisis. But she stopped short of
saying the Obama administration was ready to impose a no-fly zone over Libya
that would prevent Gaddafi from using aircraft against rebels.
Mattis, head of US Central Command, told a Senate hearing in Washington that
imposing a no-fly zone would be a “challenging” operation that would mean actual
“You would have to remove air defense capability in order to
establish a no-fly zone, so no illusions here,” he said. “It would be a military
operation – it wouldn’t be just telling people not to fly airplanes.”
the ground in Libya, rebel fighters claimed the balance of the conflict was
swinging their way.
“Our strength is growing and we are getting more
weapons. We are attacking checkpoints,” said a spokesman in Zawiyah, 50 km. west
A rebel army officer in the eastern city of Ajdabiyah said
rebel units were becoming more organized.
“All the military councils of
Free Libya are meeting to form a unified military council to plan an attack on
Gaddafi security units, militias and mercenaries,” Capt. Faris Zwei
But despite the widespread collapse of Gaddafi’s writ, his forces
were fighting back in some regions. A reporter on the Tunisian border saw Libyan
troops reassert control at a crossing that was abandoned on Monday, and
residents of Nalut, about 60 km. from the border, said pro-Gaddafi forces there
deployed to retake control.
A resident of rebel-held Misrata told Reuters
by phone: “Symbols of Gaddafi’s regime have been swept away from the
Only a [pro-Gaddafi] battalion remains at the city’s air base, but
they appear to be willing to negotiate safe exit out of the air base. We are not
sure if this is genuine or just a trick to attack the city
Tripoli is Gaddafi’s last stronghold. Tribal leaders, officials,
military officers and army units have defected to the rebels. Sanctions will
squeeze his access to funds.
Around the Libyan capital there were queues
outside bread shops on Tuesday morning. Some residents said many shops were
limiting the number of loaves customers could buy.
“The situation is
nervous,” said Salah, a doctor. “Of course I am worried. My family is afraid.
They are waiting at home. We have been hearing gunfire.”
opposition bastion of Benghazi, residents said food and other necessities were
in good supply.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation said output had dropped
by half because of the departure of foreign workers.
At Ras Jdir on the
border with Tunisia, Tunisian border guards fired into the air to try to control
a crowd of Egyptian laborers desperate to escape Libya. About 70,000 people have
passed through the Ras Jdir crossing in the past two weeks, and in the past few
days the rate has increased to up to 15,000 per day, said a UN
Tunisia has struggled under the burden.
“We need the most
rapid possible evacuation,” said Tunisian army Col. Mohamed Essoussi. “The major
weaknesses are in transport, air and maritime transport.”
shelters and transit camp could handle 5,000 a day, he said, adding “We are now
feeding 17,000 people.”
International aid agencies at the scene agreed
with the assessment. Tunisia’s capacity to shelter the flow was at its limit.
The agencies said faster evacuation was needed and that control on the Libyan
side would greatly ease the crisis, although there appeared to be almost no one
with the power and authority to achieve order there.