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Italy presents 5 Libyan generals who have defected

By Frances D'emilio

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 30 2011 12:25 p.m. MDT

Defecting from Gadhafi's regime Almbrok Ahmed Hmimida meets the journalists in Rome, Monday, May 30, 2011. Five Libyan army generals who defected from Moammar Gadhafi's side are appealing to fellow officers to join them in backing the rebels. Italian foreign ministry officials presented the generals, two colonels and a major at a news conference in Rome Monday. Gen. Melud Massoud Halasa estimates Gadhafi's forces are only 20 percent as efficient as they were before the rebellion began and that at most 10 generals are still loyal to Gadhafi.

Riccardo De Luca, Associated Press

ROME — Eight top Libyan army officers, including five generals, who have defected from Moammar Gadhafi's regime appealed to their fellow officers Monday to join the revolt to hasten the end of Gadhafi'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 Gadhafi'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 Gadhafi.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam, who now backs the anti-Gadhafi rebels, told the news conference that the eight officers are "part of 120 officials who left and abandoned Gadhafi 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-Gadhafi 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 Gadhafi 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-Gadhafi forces. He also said that a council representative would go to the OPEC meeting in Vienna next month.

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