Africa

Libya unrest: Foreign ministers urge end to violence

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Media captionThe BBC's Jim Muir says volunteers are helping to provide food and drink to those who manage to cross Libya's border with Tunisia

Governments around the world have condemned attacks on Libyan civilians.

Speaking at a UN human rights conference in Geneva, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Libya's Col Muammar Gaddafi must "go now".

The EU on Monday imposed sanctions including an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on Libyan authorities, including Col Gaddafi.

Tens of thousands of migrants - many from Egypt - are stranded near Libya's Tunisian border, UN officials say.

Unrest continues in and around Tripoli, with reports of an anti-Gaddafi protest in a suburb of the capital as well as fighting in nearby Misrata and an attack by air force jets on ammunition dumps in the east of the country.

'Braving the bullets'

In Geneva, Mrs Clinton accused Col Gaddafi and his followers of using "mercenaries and thugs" to attack unarmed civilians, and of executing soldiers who refused to turn their guns on fellow citizens.

"Gaddafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency," she said.

"It is time for Gaddafi to go, now, without further violence or delay."

Mrs Clinton said the Libyan protesters were "braving the dictator's bullets and putting their lives on the line to enjoy the freedoms that are the birthright of every man, woman and child on Earth".

She also said that although US naval vessels were being repositioned near Libya there was no military action pending.

When asked whether the US would back Col Gaddafi going into exile, Mrs Clinton said: "If violence could be ended by his leaving... it might be a good step but we believe accountability must be obtained for what he has done."

Opening the meeting, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay warned the Libyan authorities that widespread attacks on civilians could amount to crimes under international law.

"The illegal and excessively heavy-handed response of a number of governments is unacceptable," she said.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the organisation's sanctions on Libya would take effect quickly. They reinforce Saturday's UN Security Council measures and target Col Gaddafi and 25 members of his close entourage.

"What is going on - the massive violence against peaceful demonstrators - shocks our conscience," she said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Libya had "failed shamefully in its responsibilities to its people".

His Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd called for a no-fly zone to protect the Libyan people, and said Col Gaddafi should depart.

"The peoples of the entire world are saying 'go'. And for the sake of humanity, 'go now'," he said.

'Blood of martyrs'

Col Gaddafi shows no signs of giving up in and around Tripoli.

In Tajoura, a suburb of the capital, about 400 people protested against him, chanting: "The blood of martyrs won't go to waste." Gaddafi supporters have reportedly tried to break up the protest by firing into the air.

Reporters say there have been long queues at banks in the capital as people tried to collect the 500 dinars ($410) promised to all families by the government in an attempt to quell the unrest.

There has been fighting in the coastal town of Misrata, 200km (125 miles) east of Tripoli, with Col Gaddafi's opponents repelling a government counter-attack.

Anti-government forces still control Zawiya, 50km west of Tripoli, but pro-Gaddafi forces are surrounding the city. One resident told Reuters: "We are expecting attacks at any moment... They are in large numbers."

Libyan air force planes also reportedly attacked ammunition depots in the eastern towns of Ajdabiya and Rajma.

In other developments:

  • Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denies any massacres or bombardments against cities, saying UN resolution 1970 had been formulated based on media reports
  • UK PM David Cameron says he has asked his defence chiefs to work on how to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya
  • The European Union says Col Gaddafi no longer controls most of the oil and gas reserves in Libya
  • Opposition forces controlling eastern cities - including Benghazi, where the uprising started 10 days ago - say they have formed a national council to act as the political face of the anti-Gaddafi movement
  • Col Gaddafi has appointed the head of Libya's foreign intelligence service, Bouzaid Dordah, to speak to eastern protesters, al Jazeera television reports

Last stronghold

About 100,000 people have fled anti-government unrest in Libya over the past week, the UN estimates.

The exodus of Egyptian workers from western Libya began on Wednesday, but has since been intensifying, says the BBC's Jim Muir at the Ras Jdir border crossing with Tunisia. About 1,000 people an hour are crossing into Tunisia, he says.

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Media captionCol Gaddafi "is resorting to a tried and trusted method of gaining popularity - giving out free money", says the BBC's Jeremy Bowen

Although more aircraft and ships are due in Tunisia to accelerate the evacuation of migrant workers, the country's authorities are no longer able to cope with the influx, the UN refugee agency's Liz Eyster told the BBC.

Meanwhile the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Benghazi says eastern Libya is getting back to some muted form of normality, but it is not clear what will happen when the money dries up.

Also, there is no rebel army to make the 1,600km (1,000-mile) journey across the desert to storm Col Gaddafi's last stronghold, he says.

Late on Saturday the UN Security Council unanimously backed an arms embargo and asset freeze on senior Libyan government officials.

It also voted to refer Col Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

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