Qaddafi deserted by Libyan diplomats amid brutal crackdown

The UN harshly criticized Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's brutal response to protesters. The death toll could now be as high as 400.

By , Correspondent

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    Libyan protesters hold a giant flag on top of a building during a demonstration in the seaport city of Tobruk on Feb. 20.
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As reports circulated that Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar Qaddafi were bombing protesters from helicopters and airplanes, Libyan diplomats around the world defected and announced their support of the protesters.

Col. Qaddafi has shown little sign that he will step down from power, but the defection of the top diplomats and condemnation from world leaders indicate that the longest-ruling Arab strongman may be losing his grip on the country.

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Libyan diplomats in the US, Australia, India, the United Nations, and other places have spoken out against Qaddafi in no uncertain terms and in some cases defected, reports Al Jazeera. Ali Aujali, Libya’s ambassador to the US, has called on Qaddafi – also pronounced Gaddafi – to step down, but some of the harshest comments have come from Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi.

“The tyrant Muammar Gaddafi has asserted clearly, through his sons, the level of ignorance he and his children have, and how much he despises Libya and the Libyan people,” said Mr. Dabbashi in a statement endorsed by other members of Libya’s UN mission, excluding the ambassador.

The Arab League is scheduled to meet at their headquarters in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Libya, but it appears that Qaddafi will receive no support from other Arab nations.

“[T]he demands of the Arab peoples for reform, development and change are legitimate, and the Arab nations' feelings are joined together in this decisive moment in the history of the region,” said the Arab League’s Secretary General Amr Moussa, Xinhua reported.

The UN Security Council will meet at the same time as the Arab League. The international organization is expected to take a hard stance against Qaddafi. As the estimated death toll mounts to somewhere between 250 and 400 people, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he spoke with Qaddafi over the phone and “forcefully urged him to stop violence against demonstrators,” reports the Guardian. He later told reporters that what was happening in Libya was a “serious violation of international humanitarian law” that “must stop immediately.”

Dabbashi, Libay's deputy ambassador to the UN, appealed to the international body for intervention to help stop "a real genocide."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday became the highest-ranking American official to speak out against the violence in Libya, calling for an immediate end to the bloodshed. Several senators have called on President Obama to condemn the violence as well, but he has so far remained silent, reports CNN.

“The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly,” said Mrs. Clinton. “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.”

Despite the defection of his diplomats and mounting international pressure, Qaddafi has shown no indications that he will let go of power. In a brief television appearance, Qaddafi, who has ruled the country for more than four decades, addressed the nation from a car, holding an umbrella because of rain.

“I want to show that I'm in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” he said. “I wanted to say something to the youths at the Green Square [in Tripoli] and stay up late with them but it started raining. Thank God, it's a good thing.”

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