UNITED NATIONS/KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Libyan diplomats at the United Nations and several countries broke ranks with the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, urging on Tuesday foreign nations to help stop what many called the slaughter of anti-government protesters.
Gaddafi’s forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators demanding an end to his 41-year rule, with fighting spreading to the capital Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week. Human rights groups say at least 233 people have been killed.
Ali al-Essawi, Libya’s ambassador to India who resigned his post in protest at the violent crackdown, told Reuters he was beseeching global powers to help his people, who he said were being killed by mercenaries and air force strikes.
“Libyans cannot do anything against the air fighters. We do not call for international troops, but we call on the international community to save the Libyans,” Essawi said, looking nervous and agitated in a New Delhi hotel room where he is staying after leaving the embassy.
“I call on the five permanent members of the (United Nations) Security Council. Now is the time to be fair and honest to protect the Libyan people.”
He also said several members of the military had defected because of they could not “see foreigners killing Libyans”.
The U.N. Security Council was due to hold a closed-door meeting at 1400 GMT to discuss the situation in Libya, at the request of Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations who also withdrew his support for Qaddafi, denouncing him as a “tyrant.”
Libya’s embassy in Malaysia also condemned Gaddafi’s crackdown on the protesters, calling it “barbaric and criminal” after the mission in Kuala Lumpur was briefly occupied by around 200 protesters.
The protesters smashed a portrait of Gaddafi and hauled down the country’s flag to replace it with what they said was a pre-Gaddafi flag. There were no clashes during the occupation and no arrests and the protesters left the embassy grounds peacefully.
“We can no longer express how angry we are. The Libyan people have already said ‘no’ and they reply with bloodshed,” said Marwa Mastor, one of the protesters in Kuala Lumpur.
Osama Ahmed, a counsellor at the embassy, told Reuters that the ambassador here would remain in place to help around 5,000 Libyans living in Malaysia.
Libya’s ambassador to the United States told the BBC in Washington on Monday he was also withdrawing support for Gaddafi, but stopped short of resigning.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Libyan mission to the United Nations called on “the officers and soldiers of the Libyan army wherever they are and whatever their rank is ... to organize themselves and move towards Tripoli and cut the snake’s head.”
It appealed to the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan cities to prevent mercenaries and weapons being shipped in.
Asked if the Libyan government had reacted to the statement, Dabbashi told reporters: “I don’t care that much about the reaction of the government, I think practically there is no government.”
“I think it is a one-man show. It is a kind of end of the game, and he (Gaddafi) is trying to kill as much as he can from the Libyan people and try to destroy as much as he can from the Libyan country.”
Gaddafi visited the United Nations in September 2009, delivering a rambling address of more than 90 minutes to the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders.
(Additional reporting by Henry Foy in New Delhi and Razak Ahmad in Kuala Lumpur; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Miral Fahmy)