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LIBYA: Ban Ki-Moon calls on Security Council for decisive action

BBC - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the global body’s Security Council to take “decisive action” over the Libya crisis.
He said violations of human rights had been carried out by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, and more than 1,000 had died.
In Libya, reports say anti-government protesters in the capital Tripoli came under heavy gunfire on Friday.
Witnesses reported deaths and injuries as militiamen and government troops confronted protesters as they emerged from mosques following Friday prayers and started demonstrating in several areas of the city.
At the same time, Libyan state TV showed Colonel Gaddafi speaking from the Tripoli’s old city ramparts, urging the crowd to arm themselves and defend the nation and its oil against the anti-Gaddafi elements who have taken control of large parts of the country.
“We shall destroy any aggression with popular will,” he said. “With the armed people, when necessary we will open the weapons depots. So that all the Libyan people, all the Libyan tribes can be armed. Libya will become a red flame, a burning coal.”
The US sanctions announced late on Friday by President Obama block transactions involving assets of Col Gaddafi and several close family members.
“These sanctions therefore target the Gaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya,” Obama said in a statement.
Earlier, at a hastily organised news conference at the UN in New York, Libyan deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi described Col Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, as a “madman”. He warned that thousands would die in Tripoli because the Libyan leader would never flee and would fight to the end. Much of the east of the country is in the hands of anti-Gaddafi protesters and units of the Libyan military that have crossed over to them. Ban said 22,000 people had fled Libya via Tunisia, and a further 15,000 via Egypt.
“Much larger numbers are trapped and unable to leave,” he added. “There are widespread reports of refugees being harassed and threatened with guns and knives.”
He said it was important for neighbouring countries, including those in Europe, to keep their borders open to those fleeing the violence.
Ban also said that there was a food crisis inside Libya that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) expected to worsen. The WFP says Libya’s food supply chain is at risk of collapse because imports have not been getting into the country and food distribution is hampered by violence.
Diplomats at the UN Security Council say Britain and France have drawn up a draft resolution with a package of measures aimed at isolating Libya’s political and military leaders. As well as targeted sanctions, this could include an arms embargo, and a proposed referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court.
The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has entered the Libyan capital at the invitation of the Libyan government.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Friday imposed personal sanctions on Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi and four of his sons, in a clear attempt to further weaken his teetering regime and punish brutal assaults against his people.
Obama wielded presidential power in an executive order to seize the assets of Kadhafi and named family members in the United States and globally within the auspices of US financial institutions, saying the “human dignity” of Libyans “cannot be denied.”
Washington also shuttered its Tripoli embassy, warned its spies were seeking evidence of “atrocities” in Libya and said that Kadhafi had lost the confidence of his people, in an apparent broad hint that Washington wanted him gone.
Officials said the US sanctions were a direct attempt to prevent any looting of Libya’s assets and sovereign wealth by Kadhafi and his sons amid turmoil which reports said has killed over 1,000 people and split the country.
Privately, sources said, Washington hoped the measures would encourage defections from the regime.
The move also came on the eve of a UN Security Council meeting to consider multilateral sanctions on the Kadhafi government, and after the Libyan strongman warned of a looming battle in Tripoli to protect his four-decades-old regime.
“By any measure, Moamer Kadhafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable,” Obama said in a statement.
NZealand quake toll surges to 145 dead

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, (AFP) - New Zealand’s earthquake death toll surged to 145 Saturday with grave fears for another 200 missing, in what Prime Minister John Key said could be the nation’s greatest tragedy.
Police said 145 bodies had been recovered after Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude quake left large parts of the nation’s second city Christchurch in ruins, and warned the toll could rise sharply.
The disaster “may be New Zealand’s single most tragic event”, Key said Saturday after meeting relatives of the dead and missing during a visit to Christchurch.

“I think it’s fair to say they (relatives) fear the worst but there is still a glimmer of hope,” he said. “They are full of fear because a significant period of time has elapsed.”
The earthquake currently rates as New Zealand’s second deadliest disaster after a 1931 tremor killed 256 people in the Hawke’s Bay region.
Key also announced two minutes’ silence to honour the victims of the disaster next Tuesday, exactly a week after the quake struck.

Rescuers toiling in the rubble have not pulled out anyone alive since the day after the quake. They believe many victims are buried in Christchurch’s damaged cathedral, and the ruins of two office buildings.
“The number of missing people reported for which we have grave concerns remains at more than 200,” police district commander Dave Cliff said Saturday.
Earlier, officials said one-third of Christchurch’s city centre faces demolition after an earthquake killed at least 123, and warned it may be unable to host the Rugby World Cup.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee urged the stricken city to be “realistic” about holding World Cup matches in September and October after the 6.3-magnitude quake caused widespread damage, including to the rugby stadium.

“To lose the Rugby World Cup from Christchurch would be a massive blow,” Brownlee told TVNZ. “I don’t want to see it happen but we’ve got to be realistic about the prospect.”
Rugby-mad Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city, is one of the main venues for the seven-week competition, and is slated to hold two quarter-finals on October 8 and 9.
But Tuesday’s quake reduced much of the city centre and some suburbs into ruins. Although Stadium Christchurch has only minor damage, the pitch has been hit by liquifaction, when soil becomes a quagmire due to the ground’s shaking.

Stadium officials also reported serious damage around the venue, which is just two kilometres (just over a mile) from the rubble-strewn city centre -- where Christchurch’s biggest hotel is tottering and in danger of collapse.
On Saturday, engineers said as much as a third of the central district, where office buildings folded like packs of cards and entire streets lost their shop frontages, may be demolished and rebuilt. “We’ve collected some data over the past couple of days and it’s looking like about one-third of the buildings (would be condemned),” Auckland University structural engineer Jason Ingham told TVNZ.
“We will have to prune this city and we’ll have to prune it hard,” city mayor Bob Parker told Sky News. “Entire blocks are going to have to go.” Earthquake minister Brownlee said the centre may be closed for months. Power has now been restored to most of the city but many of its 390,000 residents are without water and relying on supplies brought by tanker.

Officials said more than 62,000 homes have no water supplies and 100,000 properties are without sewerage, while 800 portable toilets will soon be in place to help ward off the threat of disease.
Despite a major international search operation involving some 700 specialist personnel, no signs of life have been detected in the quake wreckage since Wednesday, when the last of about 70 survivors was rescued.

Iran rejects IAEA concerns

 TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran on Saturday rejected concerns expressed in a new report by the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, raising concerns about a possible military dimension to its nuclear programme.
“The important point is that the full detailed report regarding all our nuclear activities show full supervision by the IAEA and no deviation to prohibited ends,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Iran’s envoy to the agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as saying.
“For the 26th time, the IAEA confirmed the peaceful nature of our nuclear programme,” Soltanieh insisted.
In a restricted report, the watchdog said on Friday that Iran was still refusing “to discuss a number of outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to its nuclear work.”
Tehran insists its programme is entirely peaceful.
But Western governments suspect it is cover for a weapons drive and have compiled evidence that it was involved in weaponisation studies -- work which included uranium conversion, high explosives testing and the adaptation of a ballistic missile cone to carry a nuclear warhead -- at least until 2003.
Iran has dismissed the evidence as “fabricated” and refused to discuss the “alleged studies” any further.
Nevertheless, “additional information ... has come to the (agency’s) attention since August 2008, including new information recently received” that prompted “further concerns,” the IAEA report said.
“Iran is not engaging with the agency in substance on issues concerning the allegation that Iran is developing a nuclear payload for its missile programme,” the report said.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions for pursuing its controversial uranium enrichment programme despite repeated Security Council ultimatums to freeze it.
Soltanieh also took the opportunity to dismiss the UN resolutions against Iran, saying they “have no legal basis and so cannot be implemented.”

While Western governments scramble to craft a collective response

Prepare to defend the city, Kadhafi tells cheering supporters

TRIPOLI (AFP) - An increasingly embattled Moamer Kadhafi said he would throw open Libya’s arsenals to his supporters in a rabble-rousing speech on Friday that presaged a bloody battle for the capital.
In a brief but chilling address in Tripoli’s Green Square, Kadhafi told hundreds of cheering supporters to prepare themselves for a fight to defend the city.

Libya’s envoy to the United Nations, Mohammed Shalgham, a childhood friend of Kadhafi, became the latest official to abandon him, with a diplomat saying he had joined his deputy Ibrahim Dabbashi in defecting.
“Please, the United Nations, save Libya. Let there be no bloodshed, no killing of innocents. We want a decisive, rapid and courageous resolution from you,” Shalgham told the Security Council.
Kadhafi loyalists had earlier killed several people in shootings that spread through Tripoli, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first world leader to openly demand his ouster.

As outraged Western governments scrambled to craft a collective response to a bloody crackdown which has claimed hundreds of lives, the United States said it was moving ahead with sanctions against the regime.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order, seizing assets and blocking any property in the United States belonging to Kadhafi or his four sons.
In a statement, Obama said the measures were specifically targeted against the Kadhafi government and not the wealth of the Libyan people themselves.

The European Union agreed to slap an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on Libya.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday demanded decisive action by the Security Council against Kadhafi’s bloody crackdown, warning that any delay would add to the growing death toll which he said now came to over 1,000.
Ban’s call and an emotional speech by the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations -- in which he raised the spectre of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot -- jolted the council into ordering a special meeting on Saturday to consider a sanctions resolution against Kadhafi. Britain, France, Germany and the United States have drawn up a resolution which says the attacks on civilians could amount to crimes against humanity. It calls for an arms embargo and a travel ban and assets freeze against Kadhafi and his entourage.