Cairo: Bellicose Gaddafi’s tight hold over Libya seems to be gradually slipping away from his grip as more and more cities fell into the hands of the opposition on Sunday. Muammar Gaddafi clung to his gradually shrinking territory in the country where the opposition movement appeared to head towards a siege of Tripoli.

The pro-democracy protesters appointed ex-Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil to lead a provisional government.

Advancing towards Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli, protesters on Sunday gained control of Zawiyeh town, which is just 50 km from the capital, besides taking over Misurata in northwestern Libya, Al Jazeera reported.

However, security forces loyal to Gaddafi kept a firm hold of Tripoli, which is in all probability headed for a major showdown between the two sides.

While a major chunk of the oil-producing eastern region, including the birth place of this uprising Benghazi, now appears to be in the grip of the protesters, there were also reports of sporadic gunfire in the capital.

UNSC slaps sanctions on Libya


The 15-member Security Council on Sunday voted unanimously to slap "biting" sanctions on the regime, ordering an arms embargo, travel and assets ban and a crime against humanity probe while demanding an immediate end to the violence "incited from the highest level" of Libyan leaders.

The sanctions included asset freezes for 68-year-old Gaddafi and his family, travel ban for the Libyan leader and his family as well as other leaders of the regime, and an immediate referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for a crimes against humanity probe.

In another tough message, US President Barack Obama while speaking to German Chacellor Angela Merkel said that Gaddafi had lost legitimacy to rule and should leave "now".

"The President stated that 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," the White House said in a statement after the telephonic conversation between Obama and Merkel.

The UN action came as an exodus of foreigners continued in the midst of a worsening situation and growing anarchy. The UN refugee agency said that "close to 100,000 people", mainly foreign migrants, have fled Libya during the past week of turmoil.

Libya's former Justice Minister Abdel-Jalil, meanwhile said he was forming a "transitional government" to replace Gaddafi's crumbling regime.

In the eastern city of al-Baida, Abdel Jalil said the new administration would include commanders of the regular army, many of whom had defected to the opposition, and the set up would pave the way for free and fair elections in three months' time, Al Jazeera said.

Younis said he has called on Gaddafi to end his resistance to the uprising, although he does not expect him to do so.

World community condemns Gaddafi


In Washington, US President Barack Obama telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the deteriorating situation in Libya.

"The President stated that 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," the White House said in a statement after the telephonic conversation between Obama and Merkel.

Asserting that Gaddafi has lost the confidence of his people, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is time that the Libyan leader quits without further bloodshed and violence.

"We have always said that the Gaddafi government's future is a matter for the Libyan people to decide, and they have made themselves clear," she said in a statement.

Several western countries have evacuated their embassy staff and other foreign nationals from Libya in secret military operations and temporarily closed their diplomatic missions there.

Over 130 foreigners, among them dozens of Germans and EU nationals, were flown out of Libya yesterday by two German military aircraft in a daring operation in which armed soldiers were reportedly involved.

The rescue operation, without the permission of the Libyan authorities, was approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

The US, Canada, Britain and France have temporarily closed their diplomatic missions in Tripoli after evacuating their ambassadors and embassy staff, media reports said.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said two Royal Air Force C130 Hercules aircraft landed in the desert near Benghazi in a secret operation and evacuated about 150 workers of British and other nationalities and they were flown to Malta.

The Canadian embassy in Tripoli also suspended its operation after its ambassador, five embassy staff, 18 other Canadians, 12 British nationals and the Austrian embassy staff were evacuated on board a military aircraft, which had no permission to land in Libya.

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Tripoli was closed down temporarily after its ambassador and the entire embassy staff was evacuated on board a French air force plane.  The aircraft carried 128 foreigners, including 28 French nationals and the entire embassy staff.

(Agencies)