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5 Libyan generals announce defection
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) May 30, 2011

Libyan representative to the United nations (UN) Shalgam Abdul Rahman (R) and some of the eight Libyan senior officers of Moamer Kadhafi's military, who have defected a few days before (From L) General Khaled Albesir, General Oun Ali Oun and General Meilud Massoud listen during a press conference on May 30, 2011 in Rome. Mahmoud Shammam, head of information for the National Transitional Council, the body which controls rebel-held eastern Libya said earlier in the day that "Eight senior officers of Kadhafi brigades, including four generals, joined the revolution". Photo courtesy AFP.

NATO raids undermine African peace efforts in Libya: Zuma
Cape Town (AFP) May 30, 2011 - NATO raids are undermining African mediation for peace in Libya, South African President Jacob Zuma said in a broadcast Monday, as he visited Tripoli for talks with Moamer Kadhafi. The alliance's air strikes on the strongman's regime were thwarting African attempts to broker a peace deal, Zuma said before his talks with Kadhafi in an interview broadcast on South African television news. "Even going there had to be delayed because of bombing," said Zuma, in an apparent reference to an initial African Union (AU) mission to Libya. "We only went there long after the time that we had taken a decision, and even going there, you have to ask permission from the NATO to get to Libya. "I think that in a sense undermines the integrity of the African Union."

Zuma went to Tripoli on Monday to meet Kadhafi for talks on ending the conflict, after the high-level AU peace-seeking mission in April fell through. "We cannot allow this conflict to take too long," he told the SABC public broadcaster. "It complicates as you go forward but also it might end up in an unfortunate situation for Libya and perhaps for Kadhafi himself," he said. The South African presidency said Zuma is seeking an immediate ceasefire, to boost humanitarian aid and to bring about reforms needed to eliminate the cause of the conflict which erupted amid anti-regime protests mid-February. But it rejected as "misleading" reports the talks would focus on an exit strategy for Kadhafi, calling the visit part of AU efforts to end the conflict. Libyan state television said Zuma would discuss implementing the AU "roadmap" for peace, as it reported NATO-led raids on the Nafusa mountains in the far west and the town of Bani Walid, near Misrata.

Five generals, two colonels and a major announced here Monday they had defected from Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's forces and said Libya's army was now at 20-percent capacity.

Italian foreign ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari told reporters the officers had deserted thanks to "the careful, competent and determined work of our intelligence service."

"You have made the right choice to abandon a regime without a future," he said as he introduced the officers and representatives of Libya's rebels at a press conference.

Abdel Rahman Shalgham, a former foreign minister who served as Tripoli's representative at the United Nations before switching sides, said: "These officers are among 120 who left Kadhafi and Libya over the last few days."

"We hope more will join us and the Libyan people, and leave the side of this despot and criminal," he said.

General Salah Giuma Yahmed said the ongoing defections meant Kadhafi's forces could no longer prop up the regime.

"NATO forces are paralysing Kadhafi's troops, they are now running at about 20 percent of their military capacity," he said.

"The situation in Tripoli is very difficult in terms of food and we are running out of gas," he added.

General Oun Ali Oun said he and his fellow officers condemned "the crimes against our own people, genocide, and everything we have seen."

"We call on all officers to join the revolution. Glory is close," he said.

Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesperson for the National Transitional Council, said the rebels had yet to receive any of the money promised to them.

"We haven't received any financing so far. We should be getting 180 million dollars from Kuwait in the next day or so, as a gift," he said.

"We are suffering over the slowness of this operation," he added.

It was not possible to verify the identities of the officers or determine how they had left Libya.

On Friday, a group of Libyan soldiers, including several senior officers, arrived by sea in Tunisia, the Tunisian official news agency TAP reported.

According to TAP, 34 people from Libya, including civilians and soldiers, arrived in southern Tunisia aboard two boats.

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