Washington, March 1 (IANS) International pressure began to mount on defiant Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to quit with the US issuing an ultimatum to him to surrender power “without delay” and the European Union imposing an arms embargo and other restrictions.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bluntly told the Libyan leader to surrender power “now, without further violence or delay”, the New York Times reported.
The prime ministers of France and Britain echoed Clinton’s call while Germany proposed a 60-day ban on financial transactions.
A spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said that contacts were being established with the opposition.
Libya has been facing anti-regime protests since Feb 14, soon after mass uprising toppled the long-term regimes in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.
Italy’s foreign minister Sunday suspended a non-aggression treaty with Libya on the grounds that the Libyan state “no longer exists”.
British Prime Minister David Cameron declared: “It’s time for Colonel Gaddafi to go.”
The international pressure began mounting after calls by the UN for “concrete action” to protect civilians in Libya, following crackdown on protesters in the north African country.
However, Libyan government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim, denied reports that Colonel Gaddafi’s loyalists had turned their guns on civilians.
“No massacres, no bombardments, no reckless violence against civilians,” he said at a news conference attended by foreign journalists.
However, media reports say, about 1,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 have fled anti-government unrest in Libya in the past two weeks.
On Monday, anti-government protesters gained control of four Libyan cities and formed a council to begin the transition of power from Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-old rule.
According to the BBC, unrest continues in and around Tripoli where a demonstration against Gaddafi in the capital’s suburb of Tajoura saw protesters chanting, “The blood of martyrs won’t go to waste.”
The areas reported to be under control of anti-government forces include Az-Zawiya, Misurata, Benghazi and Al Baida, Al Jazeera reported.
The anti-regime protests are sweeping through north Africa and the Middle East.
The unrest in other countries, including Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and Iraq, were triggered after weeks of unrest in Tunisia toppled the 23-year-rule of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali Jan 14. A similar uprising began Jan 25 in neighbouring Egypt, leading to the fall of president Hosni Mubarak Feb 11 after 30 years in power.