Zuma, Kadhafi meet as defections mount



TRIPOLI, Imed Lamloum- South African President Jacob Zuma met Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for truce talks on Monday as NATO said the strongman's "reign of terror" was nearing its end and top military officers deserted him.
State news agency JANA said Zuma left the capital after a visit lasting several hours during which he met Kadhafi.



State television broadcast footage of Kadhafi welcoming Zuma at the entrance to a building, in the embattled Libyan leader's first reported public appearance in weeks.
JANA said that during Zuma's talks, Tripoli denounced NATO "violations" of UN resolutions, attempts at "political assassination" and destruction of the country's infrastructure and the maritime blockade of Libya.
Zuma arrived at Kadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, a regular target of NATO air strikes, at 1400 GMT.
During the talks, the Tripoli regime also demanded a meeting of the UN Security Council to review "mechanisms for applying resolutions on Libya," JANA said.
Before his Tripoli talks, Zuma told South African television news that the NATO campaign was thwarting African Union attempts to broker a peace deal.
"Even going there had to be delayed because of bombing," he said in apparent reference to an initial 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."
In Rome, meanwhile, five generals, two colonels and a major announced they had defected from Kadhafi's forces -- and also said the regime's army was now at 20-percent capacity.
Abdel Rahman Shalgham, a former foreign minister who was Tripoli's UN representative before switching sides, told a press conference: "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.
Zuma arrived in Tripoli shortly after state media said NATO-led air strikes on the town of Zliten, west of the rebel-held city of Misrata, had killed 11 people.
The South African presidency said Zuma is seeking an immediate ceasefire, to boost humanitarian aid and bring about the reforms needed to eliminate the cause of the conflict which erupted amid anti-regime protests in mid-February.
But it rejected as "misleading" reports the talks would focus on an exit strategy for Kadhafi.
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.
State news agency JANA said warplanes had hit "civilian and military sites in the Wadi Kaam area of Zliten."
"There were 11 people martyred and a number of wounded," it said.
At a meeting of NATO's parliamentary assembly in Bulgaria, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted: "Kadhafi's reign of terror is coming to an end.
"He is increasingly isolated at home and abroad. Even those closest to him are departing, defecting or deserting. ... It is time for Kadhafi to go as well," Rasmussen said.
In Rome, Libyan 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 told reporters.
Ahead of Zuma's visit, his ruling African National Congress slammed the NATO raids.
The Libyan regime also got support from two French lawyers who planned to initiate legal proceedings against France's President Nicolas Sarkozy for crimes against humanity over the Libya campaign.
Libyan justice ministry official Ibrahim Boukhzam told reporters in Tripoli that Jacques Verges and Roland Dumas had offered to represent families he said were victims of the NATO bombs.
The regime's response to the rebellion, however, was condemned in Geneva by UN rights chief Navi Pillay.
"The brutality and magnitude of measures taken by the governments in Libya and now Syria have been particularly shocking in their outright disregard for basic human rights," Pillay told the UN Human Rights Council.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who heads the rebels' provisional government, welcomed a Friday call by G8 world powers for Kadhafi to stand down, saying it was the position reflective of the "will of the international community as well as the demands and aspirations of the Libyan people."
The Libyan regime responded by saying that only an African Union (AU) initiative matters and the rebels reiterated they would accept no settlement that did not entail Kadhafi's departure.
On the humanitarian front, announcing 10 million euros ($14 million) in aid for refugees, the European Commission said on Monday about 40,000 Chadian workers trying to flee Libya were stranded in "dire conditions" at the border with Chad.
Qatar, meanwhile, has opened a government-financed refugee camp in southern Tunisia to host 1,600 Libyan refugees, a camp official said.
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Monday, May 30th 2011
Imed Lamloum
           


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