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Eastern Libya free from Gaddafi rule: ex-major Thousands of Libyans in the eastern city of Tobruk have been celebrating after breaking free from Muammar Gaddafi. About a week into the uprising, and support for the 41-year regime is cracking from the top down. Several senior diplomats have publicly turned their back on Gaddafi. The interior and justice ministers resigned over the excessive use of violence against the anti-government protesters. And crucially, significant numbers of the military are reported to have refused to carry out Gaddafi's orders to kill Libyan people. One army base near the Egyptian border was pictured deserted. The airport at Al Bayda also fell into rebel hands. A former Libyan army major claimed the whole of the east of the country was no longer under Gaddafi's control. However, a dissident Libyan diplomat at the UN said it was a different story in the west. Ibrahim Dabbashi said: “They are attacking people in all the cities in western Libya. Certainly the people have no arms. I think the genocide has started now in Libya. I think Gaddafi's statement was just a code for his collaborators to start genocide against the Libyan people.” The EU joined growing international calls condemning Gaddafi's brutality. The Italian government spoke of 1,000 dead so far as a credible figure as pictures emerged purporting to show the preparation of graves in Tripoli. Another estimate reckons it could be ten times that figure.
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EU in knots over Libya The European Union's foreign ministers have been grasping for a common strategy over Libya. They are grappling with a threat by its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, to end efforts to hold back illegal immigration to Europe from north African shores, if Europe supports the opposition surge in Libya. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told journalists: “You asked me earlier about whether Colonel Gaddafi is in Venezuela. I have no information that says he is, but I have seen some information that suggests he is on his way there.” Venezuela has denied this. With the Europeans struggling to form a united front, foreign policy high representative Catherine Ashton left the ministers' meeting in Brussels to fly to Egypt. Ashton said: “We are extremely concerned by the events which are unfolding in Libya. We condemn the on-going repression against demonstrators, and deplore the violence and the death of civilians.” Ashton is scheduled to meet Egyptian officials, opposition leaders, youth groups and women's groups. British Prime Minister David Cameron, at the start of a Middle East tour, got to Cairo before her, the first leader to visit Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was forced out as president.
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Bahrain opposition considers talks but sets demands Thousands of demonstrators including some 1500 striking teachers have rallied in the centre of Manama's Pearl Square, the symbolic focal point of Bahrain's anti-government protests. The opposition are also preparing for what they hope will be a large demonstration tomorrow. Meanwhile they have been considering an offer of talks from the Crown Prince. Many protesters want certain fundamental demands met first. Mostly Shias, they are calling for the Sunni royal dynasty to be replaced by a constitutional monarchy. Some are calling for King Hamad who has ruled for 12 years to step down. Seven people are known to have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces over the past week. Force was used to clear Pearl square last week but protesters flocked back at the weekend after security forces withdrew. Mobile clinics have been set up in tents to treat demonstrators who have been injured – and be ready for any more violence. “They fired at our camp, they shot at our camp and they attacked it and took all our equipment, the police and the army,” said medical volunteer Dr Hassan Abu Mahdi. “So we started again… we'll make this tent again and again.” “I am a volunteer, doing volunteer work, I like to help people and in our situation in Bahrain now we have to be together,” said a nurse, Shafiqa Hassan. The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix has been cancelled because of the civil unrest in the country. The race would have kicked off the new season in March. Amid concern over the effect on the economy, the credit ratings agency Standard and Poor's has downgraded Bahrain's rating from A to A-.