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World applies pressure on Gaddafi

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27 February 2011
Last updated at 23:29 ET

Foreign ministers from around the world are gathering in Geneva to discuss their response to the mounting humanitarian crisis in Libya.

Tens of thousands of migrants – many from Egypt – are stranded near Libya’s Tunisian border in need of food and shelter, UN officials say.

Rebels are closing in on embattled Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in his stronghold Tripoli.

The US has publicly backed anti-Gaddafi groups in eastern Libya.

Speaking on her way to the Geneva meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was “reaching out to many different Libyans in the east”.

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.

Mrs Clinton said she would discuss coordinated responses on both the humanitarian and political fronts with many of her counterparts from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa at the UN human rights council meeting in Geneva.

At least 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in nearly two weeks of violence in which eastern cities cities have fallen to anti-government forces.

Humanitarian crisis?

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.

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, Liz Eyster of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told the BBC.

“They’ve been accommodating people in shelters, schools and places of their own,” she said. “But we’re now aware of the fact that they’re very much stretched and they need the support of the international community.”

The local representative of the Red Crescent described the position as “a humanitarian crisis”.

“The entire world should mobilise to help Egypt repatriate its nationals,” Monji Slim told AFP news agency.

One stranded refugee said: “All the people here are demonstrating because they want to go to Egypt. All countries are sending aircraft to rescue their people – Turkey, Korea, India, Bangladesh – everyone is arriving and leaving except for Egyptians.”

A number of countries have been evacuating foreigners by air and sea.

On Sunday a Greek ship carrying hundreds of migrants – mainly from Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain – docked at the port of Piraeus near Athens.

‘Revolution’

Col Gaddafi is facing the biggest challenge to his 41-year rule, but still controls the capital Tripoli.

However the centre of Zawiya, about 50km (30 miles) to the west, was being held by the anti-government camp on Sunday. Pro-Gaddafi forces are surrounding the city.

“This is our revolution,” some demonstrators, quoted by Reuters news agency, chanted.


Gaddafi's sons Saadi al-Gaddafi and Saif al-islam

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Gaddafi’s sons told ABC News there were no attacks on protesters

A number of protesters stood on top of a captured tank while others crowded around an anti-aircraft gun, Reuters added.

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.

In a telephone interview with a Serbian TV, he said the sanctions were null and void.

“The people of Libya support me, small groups of rebels are surrounded and will be dealt with,” he added.

Col Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam denied that his father had any assets abroad.

“We are a very modest family and everybody knows that,” he told ABC News. “They are saying we have money in Europe or Switzerland… It’s a joke.”

He also denied widespread reports that Libyan troops and mercenaries had fired on civilians.

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World applies pressure on Gaddafi

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