ROME — World leaders said Monday the end is near for the regime of Moammar Gadhafi and called on the Libyan leader to relinquish power, as hundreds of Libyans living abroad celebrated in the streets after rebels took control of most of the Libyan capital.
With events unfolding quickly and clashes reported Monday near Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli, leaders across European capitals urged Gadhafi to avoid a bloodbath of his own people and turn himself in to the International Criminal Court.
“The time is up,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday “There is no alternative to surrendering and handing himself in to justice.”
“If Gadhafi keeps inciting a civil war, he alone will be responsible for a dramatic bloodbath that we must all try to avert,” Frattini told Sky Italia.
British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a family vacation to lead a meeting of the country’s special security committee on Libya. His office said Sunday that it was clear “the end is near for Gadhafi,” and called on him to “go now to avoid any further suffering for his own people.”
Poland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, issued a statement saying it “welcomes the end” of Gadhafi’s rule.
The comments were echoed in Berlin, where German vice chancellor and Economy Minister Philipp Roesler told reporters: “I hope very much that Gadhafi will be found very quickly, will be caught, and then handed over to the international court; brought very quickly to the Hague.”
The International Criminal Court has indicted Gadhafi on charges of crime against humanity, along with one of his sons, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, and Libya’s intelligence chief. Seif Gadhafi was arrested by rebel forces, while another one of Gadhafi’s sons was kept under house arrest.
Frattini said there was no longer room for mediation, including allowing Gadhafi to go into exile or remain in Libya but relinquish power — as had been suggested at various points during the past five months of fighting.
On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that Gadhafi has to accept reality and relinquish power. “The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Moammar Gadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end,” the president said.
Outside of the country, Libyan expatriates celebrated what they felt was already the end of the regime.
In Ankara, the Turkish capital, dozens of Libyans flocked to the embassy to celebrate the rebels’ seizing much of Tripoli. They removed the Gadhafi regime’s green flag from a mast and replaced it with the rebels’ tricolor one. They grabbed Gadhafi posters from inside the building, smashed or set them on fire as the embassy staff watched. The group, which included women and children, then proceeded to chant and dance as they waved the rebels’ flags.
A similar scene occurred in the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, where some 200 Libyans entered the Libyan embassy on Sunday to hoist the Libyan independence flag while setting fire to pictures of Gadhafi and his green flag. The celebrations continued through the night and were still on Monday morning.
“The celebrations we currently see in Libya, and not least in the streets of Tripoli, all point in one direction: the Libyan people’s struggle for freedom has gone into the playoffs,” said Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen of Denmark. “It is crucial that the final phase is handled in a dignified manner and that the (opposition) National Transitional Council remains united to manage the transition toward the holding of free elections.”