TRIPOLI CALM – as Libyan masses prepare to defend their city against NATO

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The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Colonel Gadaffi and the Libyan authorities.

Security Council members on Saturday night voted for an arms embargo and asset freeze while referring Gadaffi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, despite strong initial oppostion to this from China.

US President Barack Obama said yesterday that the Libyan leader should step down and leave the country immediately.

Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed his master, saying, ‘it is time’ for Gadaffi to step down after UK special forces had airlifted 150 oil workers, many of them British, from desert camps in eastern Libya.

Hague also confirmed that former prime minister Blair, the ‘Butcher of Baghdad’, had kept the Cameron government informed about telephone conversations he had had with the Libyan leader over recent days.

On Saturday, one of Gadaffi’s sons, Sayf al-Islam, insisted normal life was continuing in three-quarters of Libya.

The capital, Tripoli, was calm on Saturday, with shops open and people on the streets, and supporters of Gadaffi occupied central Green Square in a public show of support for their leader.

This was confirmed by a number of foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, attempts were being made to form a so-called ‘transitional government’.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who has resigned as justice minister, said a body comprising military and civilian figures would prepare for elections within three months, Libya’s privately-owned Quryna newspaper reported.

The defecting Libyan ambassadors to the US and UN have both reportedly voiced their support for the plan under discussion.

The US has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and closed its embassy in Tripoli.

Australia says it will place sanctions on 22 individuals close to Gadaffi, barring financial transactions and their entry to Australia.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the move was a ‘concrete demonstration of Australia’s support for the people of Libya’.

Thousands of foreign nationals, many of them employed in the oil industry, continue to be evacuated from Libya by air, sea and land.

On Saturday, two British military transport aircraft picked up about 150 foreign nationals in the desert south of Benghazi and flew them to the Mediterranean island of Malta.

The Cameron government also announced it had temporarily closed its embassy in Tripoli and pulled out its staff on the last UK government-chartered aircraft because of the ‘deteriorating security situation’.

A number of Britons want to remain in Libya, in some cases because they have dual nationalities or have Libyan spouses or families.