Muammar Gaddafi is facing an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged crimes against humanity after hundreds of protesters were killed in the uprising against his rule that broke out last month.
The ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has concluded there is sufficient evidence to investigate Colonel Gaddafi and members of his inner circle, including his sons, although he mentioned only the Libyan leader by name. The prosecutor said the court intended "to put them on notice: if forces under their command commit crimes, they could be criminally responsible. No one has the authority to attack and massacre civilians".
The latest effort to censure Colonel Gaddafi came as he launched new air strikes outside the rebel-held towns of Brega and Ajdabiya, west of Libya's second city, Benghazi, following heavy fighting a day earlier when loyalist troops pulled back in a shock defeat at the hands of rebel forces.
The ICC's decision, made with unusual haste, will put renewed pressure on Colonel Gaddafi, who has resisted international calls to quit, promising "another Vietnam" if foreign powers decide to intervene militarily. Colonel Gaddafi, who many expected to fall from power in the wake of the uprising in eastern Libya, has proved resistant to anti-regime forces that now control large parts of the country and have set up some up provisional administrations.
The uprising has spread to towns outside Tripoli – several close to the capital are now under rebel control – as well as some of the city's suburbs, where militias have been quick to crack down on any dissent. In a surprise move, the Libyan government yesterday accepted a plan by its ally, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking talks to end the uprising.
Reports that Mr Chavez's proposal was being taken seriously by Arab leaders pushed down oil prices after a rally that lasted several days on worries the escalating violence would adversely affect supplies.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that a British-Libyan man died in the fighting in Brega two days ago. Khaled Altagri, who had lived in Manchester for 13 years, flew to Libya two weeks ago in an effort to extract his daughter, Fatima, from Tripoli.Reuse content