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Europe joins call for Gaddafi to stop fighting, step down

08-22-2011 21:56 BJT Special Report:Int'l Intervention in Libya |

European leaders on Monday scrambled to voice their support for the Libyan rebel forces and called on the embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to stop fighting so as to prevent further bloodsheds.

Calling Gaddafi "irresponsible and desperate," French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged forces still loyal to Gaddafi to "turn away without delay" from Gaddafi "by ceasing the fire, by laying down arms and by surrender to the legitimate Libyan authority."

His words came amid a massive offensive by the Libyan rebels who pushed into the heart of Tripoli Monday morning after a months-long stalemate in the oil-rich country's civil conflicts.

Monday's Tripoli battle was the culmination of days of dramatic changes on the frontline which saw the rebels, backed by NATO air strikes, close in on the capital from three directions.

"As the developments of the military situation on the ground and defections that multiply in his camp confirmed that the end of Gaddafi and his son's regime is now inevitable and near, the president of the Republic condemns in the strongest terms the irresponsible and desperate calls of Colonel Gaddafi to continue fighting at all costs," read a statement from the Elysee Palace.

It said Sarkozy had invited Libyan rebel leader Mahmud Jibril to visit France on Wednesday.

In London, British Prime Minister said the vast majority of Tripoli had already been controlled by the rebels, and called on Gaddafi to stop fighting without conditions.

The Prime Minister, who cut short of his holiday plan and returned to London for the second time this month, added that the future of Gaddafi "should be a decision for (National Transitional Council) Chairman Jalil and the new Libyan authorities."

Meanwhile, Cameron also warned that the situation in Tripoli was clearly very fluid and there should be no complacency.

Gaddafi's forces seemed to have crumbled quickly in Tripoli in the face of the rebel offensive over the weekend, but have so far managed to hold on to the Bab Al-Aziziyah stronghold in the city.

Although the exact whereabouts of Gaddafi remained a mystery, two of the embattled Libyan leader's son, including Seif al-Islam, a promising successor to his father before the riots, have been captured.

"The aim of this arrest (of Seif al-Islam) is to prevent repetition of mass crime. We hope that this arrest will have a deterrent effect," International Criminal Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told Xinhua on Monday.

The spokesman, however, said it was too soon to speculate about the date of the trial of Seif al-Islam.

Italy, an one-time close ally of Libya, also demanded Gaddafi's departure and expressed its solidarity with the rebel forces.

In a government statement released Monday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called on Gaddafi to give himself up to "save his people from further suffering."

As Libya's former colonial ruler, Italy enjoyed strong economic ties with the North African country and was its top trade partner before mid-February when the riots began.

Also joining the chorus for the Gaddafi endgame were European Union President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"The quest for freedom by the people of Libya is coming to a historic moment," Barroso and van Rompuy said in a joint statement.

"We urge Colonel Gaddafi to accept the will of the people, step down immediately, and avoid further bloodshed and sufferance," they said.

Ashton, who echoed the call of the duo in her own statement, also called on the NTC and opposition forces to ensure the protection of civilians, "fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law and to act with responsibility in the interests of maintaining peace and stability throughout the country".

"Today, Libya is entering a new era. I salute the courage of those who have fought to make this possible," Ashton said. "It is now time to launch a process of transition towards a new Libya, in which democratic principles, justice and human rights are fully respected."

Editor:Shi Jierui |Source: Xinhua

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