Gaddafi in interim government’s line of fire

Government blames Gaddafi for "crimes"


Opposition forces have set up an interim government in eastern Libya and holds Muammar Gaddafi responsible for the crackdown against protesters opposed to his rule, its head said on Saturday.

Ex-justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil told the online edition of the Quryna newspaper that the interim authority did not hold Gaddafi's Gaddadfa tribe to blame for the loss of life, which diplomats estimate at around 2,000.

Analysts expect the opaque and complex tribal power structures to help decide how events in Libya will eventually play out.

Gaddafi has long relied on his immediate, but small, Gaddadfa tribe to staff elite military units and guarantee his personal security and that of his government.

Libya's ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, told Reuters on Saturday he supported Abud Ajleil's government.

Abud Ajleil insisted on "the unity of the homeland's territory, and that Libya is free and its capital is Tripoli," Quryna quoted him as saying in a telephone interview.

Gaddafi "alone" bore responsibility "for the crimes that have occurred" in Libya and that his tribe, Gaddadfa, were forgiven, he added.

"We are not in a phase of settling scores. We emphasize that the Gaddadfa are sons of this homeland and that we forgive everyone," Quryna quoted him as saying.

Abdu Ajleil resigned on Monday to protest the "the excessive use of violence against the protesters".

The formation of the interim government followed a meeting in Benghazi of "interim local leaderships in the eastern region", he said.

Abud Ajleil said members of the interim government would be announced on Sunday at a press conference in Benghazi, cradle of the revolt against Gaddafi's 41-year-rule.

"They include members from the liberated western cities such as Misrata and Zawiyah and other cities. Other portfolios will remain vacant until Tripoli and other cities in west and south of Libya are liberated ... Tripoli will remain the capital of Libyan state," he said.
Abdulhafid Gouqa, a lawyer from Benghazi, was appointed spokesman for the interim government, whose status remains unclear, however.

The Quryna interview was accompanied by a picture of Abud Ajleil against a background showing the Kingdom of Libya's national flag from 1951-1969. Gaddafi came to power in a military coup in a 1969.

The flag, which consists of white crescent and star on red-black-green tricolor, has featured in many of the anti-Gaddafi protests held inside and outside Libya since the unrest began.

"Leave now"

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said Gaddafi needs to "leave now," having lost the legitimacy to rule, a White House statement said.

The White House said Obama took the position -- his most direct yet -- in a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to coordinate efforts in response to the crisis.

"The president stated that when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now," it said.

Obama and Merkel "discussed appropriate and effective ways for the international community to respond," the statement said.

The call came as U.N. Security Council envoys began tough negotiations on how to sanction the Libyan leader for a deadly crackdown that Tripoli's mission to the United Nations said had killed thousands of protesters.

Rebels have taken control of most of eastern Libya and were closing on the capital, where Gaddafi loyalists have been carrying out his orders kill opponents, witnesses said.

Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, earlier told Al Arabiya television that the crisis had "opened the doors to a civil war."

The Libyan leader still controls the capital of the oil-rich state, where a resident told AFP tanks and all-terrain vehicles driven by regime partisans were patrolling the semi-deserted streets.

People had earlier Saturday joined long queues for bread and petrol.

But the witness said there was no sign of the African mercenaries who have reportedly been working for Gaddafi, and that this was a worrying sign.

"There are no more mercenaries, and that's serious because that means it will be Libyans against Libyans and the risk of civil war."

Amid the fear, he said there had been no calls on Facebook or telephone texts for people to demonstrate.

Striking back at opponents

Gaddafi, whose forces have melted away as the insurrection swept through most of the east of the country, showed he still possessed the power to strike back viciously at his opponents.

Helicopter-borne mercenaries fired on protesters at a funeral in the western city of Misrata, which fell under the control of protesters during the week, a witness told AFP.

Heavy weapons fire was heard in the background as the witness said by phone that mercenaries shot at relatives of the victims who were about to enter a mosque, adding the mercenaries also fired on a building housing an opposition radio station.

It was unclear if there were casualties. The city, Libya's third largest, was reported by residents to have been deserted by loyalists on Friday, amid continued pockets of resistance.

Britain announced that it had pulled its diplomatic staff out of Tripoli and closed its embassy. Staff were evacuated on the last government-chartered flight from the capital, it said.

The United States and Canada have also closed their embassies, and Paris suspended operations at the French embassy.

In a separate operation, two British C130 Hercules military transports swooped over the desert to evacuate 150 civilians stranded in the country's southern oilfields, Defence Minister Liam Fox said.

Other countries also scrambled to get their citizens out amid the threat of civil war in the oil-rich north African state.

Libya's foreign legion of domestic helpers, construction workers and oil executives were among thousands who scrambled to evacuate by air, land and sea on Saturday in a vast exodus.

A British warship and a Chinese-chartered ferry docked in Malta with 2,500 people from Libya's vast multinational workforce.

Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Nigeria, the Philippines and South Korea are among the countries that have or had large communities in Libya -- drawn by an oil boom that has brought billions of euros (dollars) in investments.

More than 38,000 people, mainly Tunisians and Egyptians, have fled Libya across Tunisia's main Ras Jedir border since the start of the exodus a week ago, a Tunisian official told AFP.

The U.N. World Food Program warned on Friday the food distribution system was "at risk of collapsing" in the mainly desert North African nation which is heavily dependent on imports.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has demanded decisive Security Council action, warning any delay would add to the growing death toll which he said came to more than 1,000.