ROME – Eight top Libyan army officers, including five generals, who have defected from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime appealed to their fellow officers Monday to join the revolt to hasten the end of Qaddafi’s 40-year rule.
Italian Foreign Ministry officials presented the generals, two colonels and a major to reporters in Rome three days after they fled Libya.
One of the officers, Gen. Melud Massoud Halasa, estimated that Qaddafi’s military forces are now “only 20 percent as effective” as what they were before the revolt broke out in mid-February, and that “not more than 10” generals remain loyal to Qaddafi.
Former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam, who now backs the anti-Qaddafi rebels, told the news conference that the eight officers are “part of 120 officials who left and abandoned Qaddafi and are now out of Libya.”
Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, long had close economic and diplomatic ties with Tripoli, but Rome was among the first Western nations to break with the regime and establish formal relations with the Libyan National Transitional Council, that is representing anti-Qaddafi forces.
Gen. On Ali On read an appeal to fellow army officers and top police and security officials “in the name of the martyrs who have fallen in the defense of freedom to have the courage” to abandon the regime.
The general, wearing street clothes like his fellow defectors, denounced both “genocide” and “violence against women in various Libyan cities.”
Another general, identified as Yahmet Salah, told reporters that Qaddafi had only two brigades left that were allegedly carrying out the arrests and killings.
Mahmoud Shammam, of the National Transitional Council, said none of the funds from abroad, including those promised earlier this month at an international conference hosted by the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, had yet reached the anti-Qaddafi forces. He also said that a council representative would go to the OPEC meeting in Vienna next month.