Five generals, two colonels and a major announced here Monday they had defected from Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s forces and said Libya’s army was now at 20-percent capacity.
Italian foreign ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari told reporters the officers had deserted thanks to “the careful, competent and determined work of our intelligence service.”
“You have made the right choice to abandon a regime without a future,” he said as he introduced the officers and representatives of Libya’s rebels at a press conference.
Abdel Rahman Shalgham, a former foreign minister who served as Tripoli’s representative at the United Nations before switching sides, said: “These officers are among 120 who left Kadhafi and Libya over the last few days.”
“We hope more will join us and the Libyan people, and leave the side of this despot and criminal,” he said.
General Salah Giuma Yahmed said the ongoing defections meant Kadhafi’s forces could no longer prop up the regime.
“NATO forces are paralysing Kadhafi’s troops, they are now running at about 20 percent of their military capacity,” he said.
“The situation in Tripoli is very difficult in terms of food and we are running out of gas,” he added.
General Oun Ali Oun said he and his fellow officers condemned “the crimes against our own people, genocide, and everything we have seen.”
“We call on all officers to join the revolution. Glory is close,” he said.
Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesperson for the National Transitional Council, said the rebels had yet to receive any of the money promised to them.
“We haven’t received any financing so far. We should be getting 180 million dollars from Kuwait in the next day or so, as a gift,” he said.
“We are suffering over the slowness of this operation,” he added.
It was not possible to verify the identities of the officers or determine how they had left Libya.
On Friday, a group of Libyan soldiers, including several senior officers, arrived by sea in Tunisia, the Tunisian official news agency TAP reported.
According to TAP, 34 people from Libya, including civilians and soldiers, arrived in southern Tunisia aboard two boats.
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