Cameron: Libyan crackdown on protesters 'appalling'

British PM says regime is repressing people who want to see progress; violence spreads to Tripoli; over 200 reportedly killed in 7 days.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 21, 2011 16:04
3 minute read.
Angry anti-gov't Libyan protesters hold bullets

Libya protesters holding bulllets 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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CAIRO  — British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighboring Egypt, called the Libyan government's crackdown on protesters "appalling."

"We can see what is happening in Libya which is completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country — which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic — make progress. The response they have shown has been quite appalling," he told reporters in Cairo.

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Cameron's comments came as Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi on Monday, claiming control of the country's second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. Moammar Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, vowed that his father and security forces would fight "until the last bullet."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa on Monday called for an end to violence in Libya saying the demands of Arab people for change are legitimate, Reuters reported.

"The demands of the Arab peoples for reform, development and change are legitimate and ... the feelings of all the (Arab) nations are joined in this decisive moment in history," MENA cited Moussa as saying.

After daybreak Monday, smoke was rising from two sites in Tripoli where a police station and a security forces bases are located, said Rehab, a lawyer watching from the roof of her home.

The city on Monday was shut down and streets empty, with schools, government offices and most shops closed except a few bakeries serving residents hunkered down in their houses, she said, speaking on condition she be identified only by her first name.

The protests and violence were the heaviest yet in the capital of 2 million people, a sign of how unrest was spreading after six days of demonstrations in eastern cities demanding the end of the elder Gadhafi's rule.



Gadhafi's regime has unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. More than 200 have been killed in Libya, according to medical officials, human rights groups and exiled dissidents.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi warned of civil war in Libya if protests continue, a theme continued Monday on Libyan state TV, where a pro-regime commentator spoke of chaos and "rivers of blood" turning Libya into "another Somalia" if security is not restored.

The Arab world's longest ruling leader in power for nearly 42 years, Moammar Gadhafi has held an unquestioned grip over the highly decentralized system of government he created, called the "Jamahiriya," or "rule by masses."

The spiraling turmoil in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel Monday amid investor concern.

Two leading oil companies, Statoil and BP, said they were pulling some employees out of Libya or preparing to do so. Portugal sent plane to pick up its citizens and other EU nationals and Turkey sent two ferries to pick up construction workers stranded in the unrest-hit country. EU foreign ministers were discussing on Monday the possible evacuation of European citizens. Mobs attacked South Korean, Turkish and Serbian construction workers at various sites around the country, officials from each country said.

In Libya, the Internet has been largely shut down, residents can no longer make international calls from land lines and journalists cannot work freely, but eyewitness reports trickling out of the country suggested that protesters were fighting back more forcefully. Most witnesses and residents spoke on condition they be indentified by first name only or not at all, out of fear of retaliation.

In Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, protesters were in control of the streets Monday and swarmed over the main security headquarters, looting weapons, after bloody clashes Sunday that killed at least 60 people, according to a doctor at the main hospital.

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