Libya: Senior officers defect from Gaddafi army

Libyan officers who defected from Col Gaddafi's regime, holding a news conference in Rome, 30 May 2011 The officers appeared at a hastily-arranged news conference in Rome

Eight senior officers who defected from Col Muammar Gaddafi's army have appealed to fellow soldiers to join them in backing the rebels.

One of the eight accused pro-Gaddafi forces of "genocide".

The men - who are said to include five generals - appeared at a news conference in Rome.

Meanwhile South African President Jacob Zuma has held talks with Col Gaddafi in Tripoli, in an attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

One of the generals who spoke to reporters in Rome, named as Oun Ali Oun, read an appeal to fellow soldiers and security officials to abandon the regime "in the name of the martyrs who have fallen in the defence of freedom".

He also denounced both "genocide" and "violence against women in various Libyan cities"

Another general, Melud Massoud Halasa, told reporters that Col Gaddafi's forces were "only 20% as effective" as they were before the rebellion, as "not more than 10" generals remained loyal to him.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam, who now backs the rebels and appeared at the news conference, said a total of 120 soldiers had defected in recent days.

Since the start of the uprising in February dozens of army officers, government ministers, and diplomats have abandoned Col Gaddafi.

BBC's Andrew North said Col Gaddafi had not been seen in public for almost two weeks before pictures of his meeting with Mr Zuma were shown on Libyan television

Humanitarian priority

Col Gaddafi - who was last seen on state television meeting tribal leaders on 11 May - was not among the dignitaries who greeted Mr Zuma at Tripoli airport.

As the South African president arrived, his office said the objective was to discuss an immediate ceasefire, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the implementation of reforms needed to end the crisis.

Libya - Key diplomatic initiatives

22 Feb - Arab League suspends Libya

26 Feb - UN Security Council resolution 1970 imposes sanctions on Col Gaddafi and his family, and refers crackdown to International Criminal Court

10 Mar - France recognises rebel Transitional National Council as sole representative of Libyans

17 Mar - UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorises no-fly zone over Libya and use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians

29 Mar - Governments and organisations agree at meeting in London to set up Libya Contact Group to co-ordinate efforts in post-Gaddafi Libya

10 Apr - Col Gaddafi accepts African Union's "roadmap" for ending conflict after visit by South African President Jacob Zuma; rebels reject plan as it does not require Col Gaddafi to step down

5 May - Ministers from Contact Group agree in Rome to set up non-military fund to help rebels

16 May - ICC's prosecutor seeks arrest of Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi for crimes against humanity

27 May - G8 leaders call on Col Gaddafi to go

It also rejected as "misleading" reports that their talks would focus on agreeing an exit strategy for Col Gaddafi.

After the meeting at Col Gaddafi's compound, Mr Zuma said the Libyan leader was ready to accept an African Union initiative for a ceasefire.

However the AU's "roadmap", which was drawn up in February, has already been rejected by both the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) and Nato because it did not call on Col Gaddafi to step down.

Nato imposed a no-fly zone in Libya and began bombing Col Gaddafi's forces in March as they threatened to overrun rebel-held parts of the country, a month after nationwide anti-government protests began.

South Africa voted for the UN Security Council resolution authorising the use of force to protect civilians in Libya despite the AU's concerns. Since then, Mr Zuma has joined other African leaders in accusing Nato of overstepping its mandate and calling for an end to the bombardment.

The BBC's Andrew North in the Libyan capital says that despite Mr Zuma's personal relationship with Col Gaddafi, the prospects for this peacemaking bid look thin.

On Monday, rebel spokesman Guma al-Gamati told the BBC that he believed Mr Zuma's visit would make a difference as Col Gaddafi was far weaker and more isolated than he was last month.

"The people around him and the aides and people who are fighting for him are diminishing; some are deserting," he added.

Pro-Gaddafi forces, which control Tripoli and the rest of western Libya, have been targeted by Nato under the UN resolution aimed at protecting civilians.

Libyan state media said on Monday that Nato aircraft had killed 11 people at civilian and military sites in Zlitan, 50km (30 miles) west of Misrata.


More on This Story

Libya after Gaddafi


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  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    If NATO can listen to south African president thing with be better for the people of LIBYA. But is seen that Nato is taking law in his own hand. a bodyguard can,t attack President, the airstrikes is killing a lot of civilian.
    Please stop the airstrikes on civilian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Ahmad Sewehli,

    Benghazi is not safe at all, why did the EU representative left in after arriving in 20 minutes, she said it was not safe for her or anyone else and we are talking about the strong rebel held city.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    This happens in benghazi every day, those people must be brought to justice

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Also why did thousands of civillians have left Benghazi and the east of Libya to seek refuge in Egypt if it was safe.
    There are lots atrocities been commited on the east by what is called rebels and the fact that we know they are Alqaeda who are now operating by the help of NATO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Ahmed Sewehli,
    I completey and utterly agree with Mary M, the opposition "rebels" have no say in the wr in Libya, NATO dictate the rules now and then.
    All we see on TV channels is reports on what "rebels" did and the bad things that the Libyan army is doing but we never see or never has been reported that there are masacres commited by rebels in benghazi and other towns and cities in Libya.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Ahmed Sewehli,

    with NATo ombarding Libyan civillians, has it ever been reported that there are thousans of people have been killied and I mean civillians.

    Do we know why?

    all this gaff about "use of all means to protect cvillians" why did they bomb south of Libya like Sebha and on the border to Sudan which is at least 700mile away from Benghazi


Comments 5 of 54


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