By ARAB NEWS
Published: Feb 27, 2011 23:44 Updated: Feb 27, 2011 23:44
TRIPOLI: Libyan protest leaders moved to form an alternative government on Sunday as the United States explored ways to help such a venture.
International pressure meanwhile mounted on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to stop the violence his forces unleashed on the people with the United Nations Security Council slapping an arms embargo on the North African nation and Britain revoking diplomatic immunity of Qaddafi and his relatives.
Italy suspended a treaty with Libya that includes a nonaggression clause, removing a possible obstacle to Rome taking part in any peacekeeping operations in Libya, or allowing the use of its military bases.
On Saturday, former Justice Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who quit Qaddafi’s regime six days ago, told Al Jazeera television that a transitional government would be formed to lead the country before an election. On Sunday, a spokesman announced the creation of a transitional “national council” in cities seized from Qaddafi’s forces.
Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa told a Benghazi news conference that consultations were under way on the new body’s composition and duties. “The people of Libya will liberate their cities,” Ghoqa said. “We are counting on the army to liberate Tripoli.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration stands ready to offer “any type of assistance” to Libyans seeking to oust Qaddafi. Clinton, however, made no mention of any US military assistance in her remarks to reporters before flying to Geneva.
Shortly before she left, two senators urged the administration to help arm a provisional government in Libya.
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain has revoked the diplomatic immunity of Qaddafi and his family and called on the autocratic leader to step down.
He dismissed suggestions that Britain was complicit in the repression in Libya by selling it arms and trading in oil, and said it was right for the previous Tony Blair government to establish commercial relations with Libya.
Late Saturday night, the UN Security Council voted 15-0 to impose an arms embargo and urged UN member countries to freeze the assets of Qaddafi, four of his sons and a daughter. The council also backed a travel ban on the Qaddafi family and close associates, including leaders of the revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against regime opponents.
Council members additionally agreed to refer the Qaddafi regime’s deadly crackdown on people protesting his rule to a permanent war crimes tribunal, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity. The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was instructed to report back to the council in two months on his investigation.
Hundreds of armed anti-government forces backed by rebel troops who control the city closest to the capital Tripoli prepared Sunday to repel an expected offensive by forces loyal to Qaddafi surrounding Zawiya.
An Associated Press reporter who reached Zawiya, 50 km west of Tripoli, confirmed the anti-government rebels are in control of the center of the city of 200,000. They have army tanks and anti-aircraft guns mounted on pickup trucks deployed. But on the outskirts, they are surrounded by pro-Qaddafi forces, also backed by tanks and anti-aircraft guns.
Zawiya, a key city close to an oil port and refineries, is the nearest population center to Tripoli to fall into the opposition hands.
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