Babylon & Beyond

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LIBYA: Diplomats defect en masse from Moammar Kadafi regime

February 25, 2011 |  7:50 am

Libyan diplomats at a United Nations meeting in Geneva and at the Arab League in Cairo announced Friday that they had abandoned Moammar Kadafi and would from now on represent the free Libyan people.

Envoy Adel Shaltut told a gathering of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that the entire Libyan delegation to the world body office had switched allegiance, stirring applause among the diplomats meeting in emergency session to consider how to halt the violence gripping Libya.

"We in the Libyan mission have categorically decided to serve as representatives of the Libyan people and their free will," Shaltut announced.

The rights group had discussed the possibility of suspending Libya's membership in the 47-nation body but encountered resistance from some Islamic countries as well as longtime Kadafi allies Russia and Cuba.

In Cairo, the Libyan delegation to the Arab League issued a statement saying they had "joined our people in their legitimate demands for change and the establishment of a democratic system."

Dozens of Libyan diplomats and senior military officers have defected from the side of the embattled strongman over the past 10 days after the regime resorted to using force against those demonstrating for an end to Kadafi's 41-year-old autocracy. 

--Carol J. Williams