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LIBYA: Protests continue; regime may be unable to use chemical weapons; Venezuela calls for dialogue

February 27, 2011 |  3:01 pm

Zawiya Residents chanted "Kadafi out" and "Free Libya" on the streets of Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, as anti-government forces deployed tanks and anti-aircraft weapons Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

The protests come as leaders in the eastern city of Benghazi said they had set up an interim council to represent the face of the revolution and leaders across Europe and the United States urged embattled Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi to step down.

"It is time for [Kadafi] to go and to go now. There is no future for Libya that includes him," British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday, echoing statements by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The United Nations Security Council also agreed Saturday to freeze the assets of and impose travel bans on members of the Kadafi regime, and also refer violent actions against protesters to the International Criminal Court for investigation. 

Kadafi called these actions "null and void."

Britain on Sunday rescued an additional 150 civilians from the desert, a day after both it and Germany snuck into Libyan air space to bring out civilians.

Venezuela, which has long had a cordial relationship with Libya, said Sunday that it hoped that the two sides in Libya could establish a dialogue, and that it would not support any military action by the United Nations in the North African country.

"We hope they know how to find the paths toward national dialogue; that they know how to find the paths toward national reconciliation," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicholas Maduro said of the two sides in Libya.

Another ally, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, a former Sandinista revolutionary, called Kadafi last week to express his solidarity with the leader, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

At a meeting at the Los Angeles Times on Friday, Nicaraguan Ambassador Francisco Campbell said his country did not support any actions that one nation may take to influence events in another.

"Nicaragua is opposed to any kind of intervention in the affairs of other countries," he said. "Outside interference has only brought about pain and suffering of the country," he added, referring to actions taken by the United States in the 1980s to fund Contra forces that opposed the Sandanistas in Nicaragua.

Kadafi said Sunday he was in control, reportedly ordering banks in Tripoli to hand out payments of $400 per family to shore up loyalty. A report said that Libya no longer had the weaponry to deliver the 9.5 tons of mustard gas it had stockpiled. A spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told Reuters that Libya had destroyed its stockpile of munitions in 2004. Its remaining chemicals are kept in a secure location far from Tripoli, he said.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Pro-Kadafi supporters in the contested town of Zawiya. Credit: Ben Curtis / Associated Press