Arab League suspends Libya; minister defects
In response to fiery speech in which Gaddafi vowed to cling to power, US says will take ' appropriate steps'; Al-Jazeera says Libyan interior minister announced his support for 'February 17 revolution'; official news agency says 'brother leader told Berlusconi Libya is fine'
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday Libya must end violence against protesters seeking to end Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year rule and the United States would take "appropriate steps" in time.
"As we gain a greater understanding of what actually is happening -- because you know, of course, that communication has been very effectively shut down and we are trying to gather as much information as possible -- we will take appropriate steps in line with our policies, our values and our laws," she told reporters during a news conference. "But we are going to have to work in concert with the international community."
Witnesses streaming out of Libya into Egypt said Gaddafi had used tanks, warplanes and mercenaries to try to crush protesters who have taken to the streets following uprisings that overthrew authoritarian rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.
"We are obviously watching developments in Libya with grave concern. We have joined with the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya and we believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take actions to end the violence," Clinton said.
Clinging to power. Gaddafi delivers speech (Photo: AFP)
"As always the safety and well-being of Americans has to be our highest priority and we are in touch with many Libyan officials directly and indirectly and with other governments in the region to try and influence what is going on inside Libya," she added.
Earlier, the State Department said it had been unable to move any of its nonessential US diplomats and embassy family members out of Libya on Tuesday and expected them to depart in coming days.
'Libya is fine.' Gaddafi (L) with Berlusconi (Archive photo: AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's speech on Tuesday, in which he vowed to cling to power, as very frightening and said he had virtually declared war on his own people.
Merkel told a news conference she would support eventual sanctions against Libya if Gaddafi failed to stop the violence.
"The news we've had from Libya yesterday and today is worrying and the speech by Colonel Gaddafi this afternoon was very, very frightening, especially because he virtually declared war on his own people," said the German chancellor.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa stated after Gaddafi's speech that the organization has decided to halt the participation of the Libyan delegations from all Arab League sessions, the Al-Jazeera network reported.
Al-Jazeera further reported that Libya's Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al Abidi has announced his defection and support for the "February 17 revolution."
The channel aired amateur video footage that showed Abidi sat on his desk and reading a statement that also urged the Libyan army to join the people and their "legitimate demands".
Gaddafi, facing the worst popular revolt against his 41-year rule, told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday that his country was fine.
"The brother leader reassured during (the) telephone conversation the friend Berlusconi that 'Libya is fine, its people are ... holding on to its security, stability and national unity'," the official JANA news agency said.
"Whoever wants to know the truth should closely follow the Libyan media and not turn to the lies and the fabricated information broadcast by the organs of traitors and the depraved," JANA added.
The anti-government riots in Libya resumed after Gaddafi's speech, with exchanges of fire reported in the capital Tripoli. The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that the army boosted its presence in the city of Sabratha, located west of Tripoli, after protestors ransacked government buildings in the area.
Also on Tuesday, protesters were allowed to enter the Libyan Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden and raised the flag of the monarchy that was toppled by Gaddafi's military coup in 1969.
About 50 protesters shouting "Libya, Libya" rallied outside the building on Tuesday and urged embassy staff to join them.
Three of the protesters were let into the building and raised the old flag from a flagpole to the cheers of the crowd below.
Libyan officials claimed that at least 300 people were killed so far in the riots – 242 civilians and 58 security officers.
Reuters, AP, AFP contributed to the report
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