World revels in imminent Kadhafi demise
US President Barack Obama led reaction to the rebel takeover of Tripoli, urging Moamer Kadhafi to admit defeat, as Libyans around the world on Monday celebrated the imminent end of his regime.
World leaders hailed the rebel push on the Libyan capital as the end-game in the six-month uprising against Kadhafi's 42-year-old rule, telling him to surrender to avoid further bloodshed.
While those who supported the uprising stressed that Libya's fate should be decided by Libyans, pressure was mounting for one of the planet's longest-standing dictators to be dragged in front of the world court.
"Tonight, the momentum against the Kadhafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant," Obama said in a statement issued as he took a vacation on the resort of Martha's Vineyard.
The Western-backed rebels, whose grip around Tripoli tightened over the past two weeks before a final offensive on Sunday, said they were still encountering a few pockets of resistance.
The Libyan leader's son, Seif al-Islam, was captured but Kadhafi himself, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1969, has vowed to fight to the death.
"He needs to relinquish power once and for all," Obama said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday to echo Obama's reaction and urge Kadhafi to stop fighting, without conditions, and clearly show that he has given up any claim to control Libya."
Cameron warned against complacency, saying the situation in Tripoli was "very fluid" and promising to work closely with the rebel National Transitional Council in the post-Kadhafi era.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy will call NTC head Mahmud Jibril on Monday and meet him in Paris in the coming days, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
Sarkozy, who spearheaded foreign support for the rebels, had called on Kadhafi Saturday "to immediately order those of his forces that are still loyal... to put down their arms, to return to their barracks and make themselves available to the legitimate Libyan authorities."
NATO, whose aerial bombing played a key role in weakening Kadhafi's military infrastructure, urged Kadhafi to step aside and give his country a chance to rebuild.
"The Kadhafi regime is clearly crumbling," Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the head of the Atlantic alliance, said.
It is "time to create a new Libya -- a state based on freedom, not fear; democracy, not dictatorship; the will of the many, not the whims of a few," he said in a statement.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the onus was now on the rebels "to honour the aspirations expressed by the revolution for the establishment of a democratic, just and prosperous Libya."
Current EU president Poland welcomed the end of Kadhafi's regime and vowed bloc support for the process of transition which Libya now faces.
Rumour had intensified in recent days that Kadhafi was preparing to flee like his former neighbour Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who flew out of Tunisia under street pressure in January.
But Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it was too late for Kadhafi to be cutting deals and insisted the beleaguered leader should face the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"The offers of exile were made in increasingly explicit ways numerous times. The deadline by now has passed, the only path left is that of justice -- the justice of the ICC," he said.
A Libyan government spokesman said hundreds had died in the rebel push -- which was backed by NATO bombing -- and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was a lone voice of foreign support for the crumbling regime.
"Today we are seeing images of the democratic governments of Europe, along with the supposedly democratic government of the United States destroying Tripoli with their bombs," said Chavez, an old and staunch Kadhafi ally.
China was more measured than Western powers in its reaction to Kadhafi's demise and promised to cooperate with whatever government would take over.
"China respects the Libyan people's choice and hopes Libya will return to stability soon and the people will lead a normal life," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.
With Tripoli still not under the full control of the rebel National Transitional Council, thousands of Libyans in their home towns and in the diaspora could not contain their joy.
In the city of Benghazi, the western rebel stronghold, tens of thousands poured into the streets overnight to witness the final hours of a four-decade-old regime.
While some solemnly but joyously shouted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), others opted for insulting the flamboyant 69-year-old army colonel, who at times sported a sort of Afro-style hairdo, shouting "no more curly hair."
In Washington, more than 100 people gathered in front of the White House, chanting: "USA, USA -- Kadhafi has gone today" or "Kadhafi left Tripoli, Libya is free".
In Turkey and Malta, Libyan opposition supporters lowered the Libyan flag at the embassy and flew the rebellion's colours.
Russia refrained from reacting to Kadhafi's apparently imminent fall and simply said it was "carefully monitoring the situation in Tripoli."
South Africa, denied rumours that it might be a place of exile for a defeated Kadhafi or help him to flee, called for the rapid establishment of "a truly representative and people-centred dispensation" in Libya.
There was no immediate reaction from the African Union, which had initially backed Kadhafi, who founded the pan-African organisation in its current form and financed it generously.
The oil market however was quick to react to Kadhafi's imminent demise, with crude prices tumbling in Asian trade on prospects of output in one of Africa's top oil producer getting fully back on stream and easing pressure on supply to Europe.
© 2011 AFP