WORLD LEADERS HAIL REBEL TAKEOVER
World leaders yesterday hailed the rebel takeover of Tripoli, urging Moamer Ghadafi to admit defeat, as Libyans around the world celebrated the veteran leader's imminent demise. While the leaders who supported the uprising stressed that Libya's fate should be decided by Libyans, pressure was mounting for one of the planet's longest-standing dictators to be dragged in front of the world court.
'Tonight, the momentum against the Ghadafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant,' United States President Barack Obama said in a statement issued from his holiday in Martha's Vineyard.
'He needs to relinquish power once and for all,' Obama said, the first voice in a barrage of calls for Ghadafi to cut his losses.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country spearheaded support for the rebels and was the first to recognise their administration, condemned Ghadafi's 'irresponsible and desperate calls for the combat to continue.' Sarkozy urged 'forces still loyal to the regime to turn away from the criminal and cynical blindness of their leader, to cease fire.'
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who signed a 2008 friendship treaty that made the former colonial power Libya's top trading partner, urged Ghadafi to 'put an end to every pointless resistance and to save, in this way, his people from further suffering.'
The Arab League declared 'full solidarity' with the rebels and wished them success while Libya's neighbour Egypt officially recognised their administration.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also said that 'Ghadafi must stop fighting, without conditions, and clearly show that he has given up any claim to control Libya' but warned against complacency.
NATO, whose aerial bombing played a key role in weakening Ghadafi's military infrastructure, urged Ghadafi to give his country a chance to rebuild. It is 'time to create a new Libya, a state based on freedom, not fear; democracy, not dictatorship; the will of the many, not the whims of a few,' Atlantic alliance head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman said the onus was now on the rebels 'to honour the aspirations expressed by the revolution for the establishment of a democratic, just and prosperous Libya.'
Current EU president Poland welcomed the end of Ghadafi's regime and vowed bloc support for the process of transition which Libya now faces. But Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it was too late for Ghadafi to be cutting deals and insisted he face the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Rumour had intensified in recent days that Ghadafi was preparing to flee like his former neighbour Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who flew out of Tunisia under street pressure in January.
'The offers of exile were made in increasingly explicit ways numerous times. The deadline by now has passed, the only path left is that of justice, the justice of the ICC,' he said.
In Washington, more than 100 people gathered in front of the White House, chanting: 'USA, USA – Ghadafi has gone today' or 'Ghadafi left Tripoli, Libya is free'.
Kadhafi 'has become, for all intents and purposes, part of Libya's past and now people need to look to build Libya's better future,' said the US administration's top Middle East official, Jeffrey Feltman.
In a number of Libyan embassies opposition supporters lowered the Ghadafi regime's all-green flag and hoisted the rebellion's colours. They also burned Ghadafi portraits and the 'Green Book' which he penned in 1975 and was compulsory reading for all Libyans.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an old Ghadafi ally, was a lone voice of foreign support for the crumbling regime, accusing the West of 'destroying Tripoli with their bombs.' China was more measured than Western powers in its reaction to Kadhafi's demise and promised to cooperate with whatever government would take over.
Russia's response was equally cautious, urging any future political dialogue in Libya to take place without foreign interference. South Africa meanwhile denied rumours it might be a place of exile for a defeated Kadhafi or help him to flee and called for the rapid establishment of 'a truly representative and people-centred dispensation' in Libya.
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which had initially backed its founder and benefactor Kadhafi, was to hold an emergency meeting yesterday on events in Libya. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said the violent fall of Kadhafi's regime 'should teach a lesson to everyone.'
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg used the developments in Tripoli to issue another warning to Bashar al-Assad, calling the Syrian leader 'as irrelevant to Syria's future as Kadhafi is to Libya's.'