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Libya protests: Pressure mounts on isolated Gaddafi

    Protesters in the streets of Tobruk, north-eastern Libya, on 22 February 2011 Col Gaddafi's speech on Tuesday was greeted with anger and derision by protesters 
    Pressure has mounted on isolated Libyan ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi after a chorus of international condemnation and resignations by top officials.
    The man considered the colonel's number two, Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi, is among senior figures who have joined the opposition.
    The UN Security Council demanded an end to the violence on Tuesday, while the Arab League suspended Libya.
    Protesters greeted an angry speech by the veteran leader with defiance.
    The BBC's Jon Leyne, in eastern Libya, says people there believe the government now controls just a few pockets of territory including parts of the capital Tripoli and the southern town of Sabha.
    Gunfire in Tripoli After a week of upheaval, protesters backed by defecting army units are thought to have almost the entire eastern half of Libya under their control.
    At least 300 people have died in the uprising, although Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters in Rome a death toll of 1,000 was more "credible".
    Mr Frattini also told Corriere della Sera newspaper he feared an immigrant exodus on a "biblical scale" if Col Gaddafi was toppled, predicting up to 300,000 Libyans could flee.
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy meanwhile called for the European Union to adopt "swift and concrete sanctions" and to suspend ties with Libya.
    Libyans here reacted with anger and derision to Colonel Gaddafi's defiant speech. They fear he's out to destroy the country before he's finally deposed.
    There are reports that some forces loyal to the Libyan leader, possibly foreign mercenaries, have attacked an airbase in the east of the country.
    But apart from that, he's lost complete control of this area, which is now patrolled by local militias. The belief here is that government control is now down to a few pockets, including parts of the capital Tripoli and other strongholds including the southern town of Sabha.
    As well as Col Gaddafi's interior minister, many senior generals have also defected, including General Mahmud, the commander here in the east and a veteran of the 1969 revolution.
    Col Gaddafi's support is down to an inner core, but he's clearly not going to give up the fight.
    He spoke as France's Total became the latest oil company to announce that it was suspending its operations in the North African nation.
    The Associated Press news agency reports that Gaddafi supporters and hired foreign mercenaries opened fire on the streets of Tripoli on Wednesday.
    There are also unconfirmed reports that protesters have seized control of the north-western city of Misurata, and have been raising pre-Gaddafi flags in celebration.
    Mass evacuations Meanwhile, European countries have been evacuating their citizens from Libya.
    France, Turkey and Russia are among the nations that have sent planes and frigates to pick up thousands of their stranded nationals.
    A UK warship, HMS Cumberland, has been sent to the Libyan coast ahead of a possible evacuation.
    The US, China and India are also making arrangements to rescue their citizens.
    One American who reached Vienna on a flight from Libya, Kathleen Burnett, told Associated Press the scene at Tripoli airport was "total chaos", adding: "The airport was mobbed, you wouldn't believe the number of people."
    And a Briton airlifted out by the Portuguese told the BBC he knew of dozens who were trying to get to Tripoli airport but were too afraid because of "the soldiers who are out on the streets looting and plundering".
    The UN Security Council's statement in New York late on Tuesday came amid reports that foreign mercenaries have been attacking civilians and warplanes bombing protesters.
    Its 15 members said the Libyan government should "address the legitimate demands of the population", act with restraint, and respect human rights.

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Libya protests: Pressure mounts on isolated Gaddafi

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