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Unrests intensify, crisis deepens in Libya

22. February 2011. | 07:50 14:57

Source: Emg.rs, AFP, Reuters, Stratfor, Al Jazeera, BBC, Ria Novosti, Tanjug, Haaretz, Voice of Russia, MIA

In his first appearance on television since the revolt broke out, Gaddafi denied reports that he had fled to Venezuela, ruled by his friend President Hugo Chavez.A group of Libyan army officers has called on the military to "join the people" and oust the country's longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Brent oil prices surged to a two-year peak of $105 per barrel Monday amid concerns that escalating violence in Libya could disrupt the country’s exports of crude oil.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi signaled his defiance in the face of a mounting revolt against his 41-year rule on Tuesday, making a brief appearance on state television and denying he had fled the country.

In his first appearance on television since the revolt broke out, Gaddafi was shown holding an umbrella in a 22-second statement. He denied reports that he had fled to Venezuela, ruled by his friend President Hugo Chavez.

"I want to show that I'm in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs," said Gaddafi, leaning out of a van in front of his house.

"I wanted to say something to the youths at Green Square (in Tripoli) and stay up late with them but it started raining. Thank God, it's a good thing," added Gaddafi, who took power in a military coup in 1969 when he toppled King Idriss.

A group of Libyan army officers has called on the military to "join the people" and oust the country's longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday.

The military suggest the troops should immediately march to the capital Tripoli.

Former Arab League diplomat reports Gadhafi and followers are confined to two barracks in Tripoli; protesters are reportedly hunkering down after warnings by government loyalists that anyone in streets will be shot.

A Libyan opposition activist and a Tripoli resident say the streets of a restive district in the Libyan capital are littered with the bodies of scores of protesters shot dead by security forces loyal to longtime leader Muammar Gadhafi, who is reported to be barricaded in his compound in the city.

Mohammed Ali of the Libyan Salvation Front and the resident say Tripoli's inhabitants are hunkering down at home Tuesday after the killings and warnings by forces loyal to Gadhafi that anyone on the streets would be shot.

Right now, Tripoli is in fact under siege, with army units patrolling the streets and combat planes flying over head. There are unverified reports about the bombardments of several neighborhoods, which were denied by Saif al-Islam, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Earlier on Monday Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, according to what the BBC has characterized as a reliable source. Al Jazeera has suggested that air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters.

Though the latter would be particularly draconian, the more important question is whether these signs reflect a split within the regime and Gadhafi using military force to crush opposition to his regime emerging from the military or other security forces.

Similar reports of the Libyan navy firing on targets onshore also are emerging, as well as reports that Gadhafi has given execution orders to soldiers who have refused to fire on Libyan protesters.

The application of conventional weaponry is noteworthy and will warrant scrutiny — particularly in terms of the targets of the attacks and the rationale behind them. The use of these weapons is more appropriate for other armed entities rather than unarmed protesters.

Libyan troops are good at instilling fear, but not good at stabilizing a situation, so the military may not be able to get in on the ground due to lost capability.

As violence in Libya intensifies and Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime appears to crumble, the U.S. State Department ordered all non-essential diplomats and embassy family members to leave the country.

Many European countries are also evacuating citizens. Portugal sent a C-130 plane to retrieve its citizens, and Turkey sent ferries.

Austria,Russian Federation, Bulgaria and Serbia are also sending planes. Oil companies, including Italy’s Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, are also evacuating their personnel.

Meanwhile, the European Union is worrying about what to do with all the people trying to get out of Libya who aren’t European citizens, with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini saying continued upheaval will result in an “unimaginable” wave of immigration. Thousands immigrated to Italy after Tunisia’s revolution.

The High Representative, Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the European Union stated on events in Libya:

"The European Union is extremely concerned by the events unfolding in Libya and the reported deaths of a very high number of demonstrators.

We condemn the repression against peaceful demonstrators and deplore the violence and the death of civilians. We express our sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.

The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators.

Freedom of expression and the right to assemble, as provided for in particular by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are human rights and fundamental freedoms of every human being which must be respected and protected.

The EU calls on the authorities to immediately cease the blocking of public access to the internet and mobile phone networks. The EU also calls upon the authorities to allow media to work freely throughout the country.

The legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform must be addressed through open and meaningful Libyan-led dialogue.

The European Union expects full cooperation by the authorities in protecting EU citizens."

Thousands of foreigners flee violence

Tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to flee Libya, after clashes between security forces and protesters reportedly left hundreds dead.

Egypt has boosted its military near the border and set up field hospitals, as thousands of its nationals return. Several countries are evacuating their citizens and oil companies are relocating expat staff.

Meanwhile unconfirmed media reports said at least 300 foreign construction workers employed by a South Korean company, about 100 of them from Bangladesh, were being held against their will, possibly by protesters, in the eastern port of Darnah.

There are about 50,000 Bangladeshis currently working in Libya.

In other developments;

  • China has urged Libya to ensure the safety of its citizens after reports that hundreds of Chinese construction workers in Ajdabiya were forced to flee an armed attack
  • Three Turkish ships have been sent to Benghazi to evacuate about 3,000 nationals. A thousand have already been airlifted to safety
  • Italy is to send three C-130 air force planes to evacuate its citizens. The former colonial power has about 1,500 nationals resident in Libya
  • The US has ordered all non-emergency personnel to leave Libya
  • The UK foreign office is advising Britons to leave if they can, although most of the 3,500 resident in Libya are thought to have already left. The remainder have been advised to take commercial flights, but airlines British Airways and BMI have cancelled all flights on Tuesday
  • Oil company Royal Dutch Shell says all its expatriate staff have been "temporarily relocated". Italy's Eni and France's Total are also evacuating staff

Libyan turmoil sends oil prices to two-year high

Brent oil prices soared above $105 per barrel on Monday, striking a fresh two-year peak as deadly violence in Libya fuelled concerns over spreading unrest in Arab producer states, analysts said.

In late morning deals, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April surged to $105.08 per barrel, the highest level since late September 2008, before pulling back slightly to $104.53, up $2.01 from Friday's closing level.

"The tensions in the Middle East, specifically in Libya, sent Brent crude soaring above $105 per barrel," said analyst Kathleen Brooks at foreign exchange website Forex.com.

"Political turmoil there is spooking commodity markets," Brooks added.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March, known as West Texas Intermediate, hit as high as $89.50. It later stood at $89.14, up $2.94 from Friday.

"Violence in Libya is the main driver of the price rise," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

"An influential tribal leader has threatened to cease oil shipments to the West within 24 hours if the violence against protesters does not end.

"OPEC member Libya produces 1.6 million barrels of crude oil a day, with about 1.1 million barrels a day being exported. Brent is likely to benefit more than WTI from this supply risk."

Oil breached $104 last week on escalating tensions in the key oil-supplying Middle East and North Africa region.

"Both benchmarks have really zoomed ahead this morning. The main driver is really the unrest in the Middle East," said Victor Shum, senior principal for Purvin and Gertz energy consultants in Singapore.

"Libya is a member of OPEC and even though Libya's oil production isn't very significant on a global basis, it's really threatening close to the main suppliers of crude oil to the world, mainly Middle East and North Africa."

UNSC and Arab League hold meetings to dicuss Libyan crisis

Both the UN Security Council and Arab League were to meet to discuss the bloody crackdown by Libyan authorities that prompted the UN's rights chief to warn that crimes against humanity may have been committed.

It will meet in closed session to discuss the Libyan crisis, the first time the council meets in direct response to the protests sweeping through the Arab world.

The meeting was called by the deputy Libyan ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has urged international intervention to protect the Libyan people from what he called a genocide by the authorities.

Dabbashi also said Col Muammar Gaddafi should be put on trial.

The Arab League is also due to meet later on Tuesday to discuss events in Libya.



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