UNITED NATIONS/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Libyan diplomats at the United Nations and several countries broke ranks with the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, urging foreign nations on Tuesday 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 held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday 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 Gaddafi, denouncing him as a “tyrant.”
But Libyan U.N. Ambassador Abdurrahman Shalgham, who was away from New York on Monday and did not sign onto the anti-Gaddafi statement issued by Dabbashi and others, told reporters he still supported Gaddafi.
Arriving at the Security Council just as the morning consultations ended, he told reporters he had appealed to Libyan officials to end the violence against demonstrators, but that “I am with Gaddafi.”
Libya’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he no longer represented his country’s government and called on Gaddafi to step aside to avoid further bloodshed.
“I need the United States to raise their voice very strongly. This regime is shaking and this is the time to get rid of it,” Aujali said, referring to the U.N. Security Council deliberations.
An official from Libya’s offices at the headquarters of the Paris-based U.N. agency UNESCO read out a statement in the name of Tripoli’s ambassador to France, Mohamed Salaheddine Zarem, and its ambassador to UNESCO, Abdoulsalam El Qallali.
“We announce to the people of Libya, the Arab world and the international community our support for the people in its revolt against the machine of oppression and aggression,” said the statement the official read to Reuters.
The official relayed the message on condition of anonymity, adding that neither of the ambassadors had resigned.
Neither ambassador was immediately available to comment.
Staff at the Libyan consulate in the Egyptian city of Alexandria lowered the Libyan flag and joined protesters nearby urging those inside to renounce their allegiance to Gaddafi.
Hundreds of Egyptians and Libyans outside the mission held up pictures of Gaddafi and ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, both with their faces crossed out.
“Resign and join the honorable diplomats who have turned against the killer Gaddafi or else the Libyan youth will break into the consulate and stage a sit-in,” a protester shouted.
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.
Osama Ahmed, a counselor at the embassy, told Reuters that the ambassador would remain in place to help around 5,000 Libyans living in Malaysia.
In Australia, Omran Zwed, the Libyan mission’s cultural counselor, speaking in front of the embassy, told a small band of emotionally charged Libyan protesters: “We represent the Libyan people and no longer the Libyan regime.”
Bangladeshi media, quoting Foreign Ministry officials, reported that Ahmed A.H. Elimam, Libya’s ambassador in Dhaka, resigned to support protests.
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 toward 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.
Additional reporting by Henry Foy in New Delhi and Razak Ahmad in Kuala Lumpur; John Irish and Elisabeth Pineau in Paris; AbdelRahman Youssef in Alexandria; and David Morgan in Washington; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Vicki Allen