Libyan pilots and diplomats defect

Group of army officers have also issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to “join the people” and help remove Gaddafi.

malta libya plane
The pilots claimed to have defected after refusing to follow orders to attack civilians protesting in Libya [AFP]

Two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta on Monday and their pilots have asked for political asylum.

The pilots claimed to have defected after refusing to follow orders to attack civilians protesting in Benghazi in Libya.

The pilots, who said they were colonels in the Libyan air force, were being questioned by authorities in an attempt to verify their identities.

Meanwhile, a group of Libyan army officers have issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to “join the people” and help remove Muammar Gaddafi.

The officers urged the rest of the Libyan army to march to Tripoli.

Diplomats side with protesters

Libya’s ambassadors at several stations, including the US and the UN, have said that they are siding with protesters and have called for Gaddafi to quit.

Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States, called for the Libyan leader’s resignation, telling the Associated Press news agency on Monday night that Gaddafi must step down and give Libyans a chance “to make their future”.

He said he was not resigning, as he worked for the Libyan people.

On Tuesday, Ali el-Essawi, Libya’s ambassador to India who has resigned in protest against the violence used against demonstrators, told Al Jazeera that warplanes had been used to bomb civilians, and that government forces, including “foreigners” were “killing Libyans”. He described the violence as a “massacre”, and called for the UN to declare a no-fly zone over Libya.

“Now [the UN security council] needs to prove that they believe in human rights … and to prove to us that they really have these principles in their hearts,” he said.

Late on Monday, A.H. Elimam, Libya’s ambassador to Bangladesh, resigned to protest against the killing of his family members by government soldiers.

Earlier on Monday, diplomats at Libya’s mission to the United Nations sided with the revolt against their country’s leader and called on the Libyan army to help overthrow “the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi.”

In a statement issued as protests erupted across Libya, the mission’s deputy chief and other staff said they were serving the Libyan people, demanded “the removal of the regime immediately” and urged other Libyan embassies to follow suit.

Gaddafi was waging a bloody battle to hang on to power as the revolt against his 41-year rule reached the capital, Tripoli.

The statement issued in New York said hundreds had died in the first five days of the uprising.

A spokesman for the UN mission, Dia al-Hotmani, said the statement had been issued by deputy permanent representative Ibrahim Dabbashi and other staff.

Abdurrahman Shalgham, Libya’s ambassador to the UN, was not present at the press conference, but told the Al-Hayat newspaper that all of the diplomats the country’s UN mission supported the statement “excluding me”. He said that he was in touch with the Gaddafi government and was trying “to persuade them to stop these acts”.

Hotmani said that at a meeting on Monday at the mission’s New York offices, staff  “expressed our sense of concern about the genocide going on in Libya”.

“We are not seeing any reaction from the international community,” he added.

“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,” the Arabic language statement said.

It condemned Gaddafi’s use of “African mercenaries” to try to put down the rebellion and said it expected “an unprecedented massacre in Tripoli.”

‘Cut the snake’s head’

The statement called on “the officers and soldiers of the Libyan army wherever they are and whatever their rank is … to organise themselves and move towards Tripoli and cut the snake’s head.”

It appealed to the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan cities to prevent mercenaries and weapons being shipped in.

It also urged guards at Libya’s oil installations to protect them from any sabotage “by the coward tyrant,” and urged countries to prevent Gaddafi from fleeing there and to be on the lookout for any money smuggling.

Dabbashi and his colleagues called on The Hague-based International Criminal Court to start an immediate inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity they said Gaddafi and his sons and followers had committed.
They called on employees of Libyan embassies all over the world to “stand with their people”, especially the mission at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, which they said should seek action by the UN Human Rights Council there.

On Tuesday, the country’s embassy in Australia cut its ties with Gaddafi, Musbah Allafi, the Libyan ambassasdor, said.

The embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, also cut ties with Gaddafi’s government, with ambassador Bubaker al-Mansori telling AFP: “We are not loyal to him, we loyal to the Libyan people.”

It was not immediately clear how many other Libyan embassies were likely to heed the call, although the country’s ambassador in India, Ali al-Essawi, said he was resigning in protest at the violent crackdown in his homeland.

Libya’s ambassadors to the European Union, Arab League and Indonesia have also resigned, while the embassy in Japan was shut on Tuesday.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies