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U.N. Security Council comes down on Gadhafi as opposition takes shape

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Inside Gadhafi's regime
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Saif al-Islam Gadhafi says his father's government can survive and reunite Libya
  • Libya's UN ambassador applauds the unanimous U.N. resolution targeting Gadhafi
  • A Libyan diplomat says "we support" an interim government led by a former minister
  • Despite an eerie calm, a Tripoli man says he senses "something big is going to happen"

(CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday night to punish Moammar Gadhafi's government in Libya for violence against unarmed civilians, hours after the nation's budding opposition picked a former top official as its interim leader.

The draft resolution includes an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel bans for Gadhafi and several of his family members and associates. It also refers the situation unfolding in Libya to the International Criminal Court.

"This resolution will be a signal (to) put an end to the fascist regime that is still in existence," said Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, who urged action Friday in an emotional appeal. He'd earlier renounced support for Gadhafi, calling him Saturday "a leader who loves nobody but himself."

Military and security forces loyal to Gadhafi have killed more than 1,000 people, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has estimated.

Meanwhile, Libya's deputy amassador to the world body, Ibrahim Dabbashi, indicated Saturday that he and fellow diplomats "support ... in principle" a caretaker administration to lead Libya under the direction of former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

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City councils in areas no longer loyal to Gadhafi chose Jalil to head an interim government that would represent all of Libya and ultimately be based in Tripoli, according to Amal Bogagies, a member of the coalition of the February 17 Uprising, and a separate Libyan opposition source. Both are based in Benghazi.

Jalil was in Gadhafi's government through February 21, when he quit to protest the "bloody situation" and "use of excessive force" against unarmed protesters, according to Libyan newspaper Quryna. Days later, he told a Swedish newspaper he had evidence that Gadhafi ordered the 1988 bombing of a jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

Protests began February 15 in the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya's second largest. It and many others are now thought to be under opposition control, according to eyewitnesses. There have been numerous reports of widespread violence, some of it perpetrated by foreign mercenaries and military and security forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Libya's foreign minister said earlier Saturday that talks are underway between Gadhafi's government and figures in the eastern part of the North African nation.

Benghazi-based opposition spokesman Jalal Igallal, however, strongly knocked down reports of any discussions between anti-government figures and officials supportive of Gadhafi. He urged Foreign Minister Musa Kasa to say who is being talked to, if such negotiations are in fact ongoing.

Early Sunday, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi -- one of Moammar' Gadhafi's sons and a prominent member of his government -- told CNN's Nic Robertson that he was confident the regime could survive the unrest and ultimately reunite Libya. Saif Gadhafi added that he wanted this reunification to be accomplished without violence.

While CNN does have staff in some cities, the network could not independently confirm reports for many areas in Libya. But CNN has compiled information through telephone interviews with witnesses.

Tripoli itself was noticeably tense but largely quiet overnight Saturday, its streets largely barren except for police, armed men in civilian clothing and young people with sticks at some intersections. One man, who is not named for safety reasons, described an "eerie feeling" around the capital, even as fear of violence drove many people to hunker down in their homes.

"You can feel the tension and the anticipation that something big is going to happen," he said. "Everyone is waiting for it."

The situation at the main airport, about 20 miles south of Tripoli, was far more chaotic. Several thousand people camped outside in makeshift tents, waiting for the chance to leave the war-torn country.

More than 200 Arab organizations and a group of 30 prominent intellectuals from across the Middle East and North Africa urged global bodies, including the Security Council, the European Union and the African Union, to take action to limit further death and destruction.

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"We fear we may be witnessing the calm before the storm," said their statement. "The window of opportunity to prevent further atrocities from occurring is closing fast. The people of Libya need you to act quickly and decisively."

The group urged the international community to devise contingency plans for intervention and impose immediate sanctions on the Libyan regime.

"We appeal to you as leaders who have the power to bring an end to this horror," the statement said. "Your failure to do so would be a lasting stain on the responsibilities of world leadership and on humanity itself."

U.S. President Barack Obama also weighed in Saturday, telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel to "coordinate our urgent efforts to respond to developments and ensure appropriate accountability," according to a White House statement. In some of his strongest wording to date, Obama said, "when a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now."

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement urging Gadhafi to step down.

"Moammar Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence," Clinton said. "The Libyan people deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations and that protects their universally recognized human rights."

Tripoli's Green Square, occupied by pro-Gadhafi demonstrators on previous evenings, was empty Saturday night, a witness told CNN. She said her neighborhood near the square was eerily quiet.

Another man said men carrying automatic weapons had set up checkpoints at "every major intersection or traffic light," while hospitals are heavily guarded by armed security personnel.

Other frightened residents said they stayed indoors, though unable to shut off the sound of gunfire or put aside the words of Gadhafi in a public address the day before in which he vowed to keep unleashing force.

"We can destroy any assault with the people's will, with the armed people," he said on state television Friday. "And when it is necessary, the weapons depots will be open to all the Libyan people to be armed."

Libya's prime minister, meanwhile, announced on state television that every family would receive 500 Libyan dinars ($406) from the government.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said in a statement Saturday one of its teams was in Benghazi. Their arrival, and a promise of future aid, marked one of the first humanitarian inroads into Libya in recent weeks.

Three main hospitals were all "well equipped and have managed to deal with the numbers of wounded people and medical needs," according to the group. But the facilities also face shortages of drugs, bandages and other medical items, which Doctors Without Borders said it will provide. The group plans to send an orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologist and nurse on Monday.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the situation was appreciably worse in Zawiya -- about 55 kilometers (35 miles) west of Tripoli and the epicenter of violent protests Thursday.

"West of Tripoli in Zawiya city, government security forces firing on demonstrators are causing bloodshed and chaos," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East and North Africa director.

Operations at several embassies -- including those of Great Britain and the United States -- in Tripoli have been effectively shuttered, for the safety of their personnel. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he planned to speak with Obama in Washington on Monday.

For now, Libyans themselves are left to wait to see what happens next.

"We wait and see what tomorrow will bring," a Tripoli man said early Sunday. "We pray for a quick ending to this nightmare, with minimum bloodshed. No one is naive, however, to believe that Gadhafi is going to go easily."

CNN's Nic Robertson, Ben Wedeman, Jack Maddox and Whitney Hurst contributed to this report.

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