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UPDATE 4: Libyan Ambassador refuses protesters' demands to replace embassy flag

Updates with details on incidents: -

A noisy protest against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is continuing this afternoon, with a crowd of some 250 Libyans calling on the ambassador to resign and for the Libyan embassy in Attard to replace the current Libyan flag with the old Libyan Monarchy flag.

The protest was started by some 25 men at about 11 am. and quickly swelled.

At least three embassy staff members walked out and joined the protesters amid applause and cheers.

Among those who walked out of the embassy was the Chief of Security, who said he could 'not take it any more' adding that a government could not govern against the will of the people.

Meanwhile, an embassy spokesman said the three men who had walked out were "low ranking Libyan employees who were not officials, officers, or diplomats." The spokesman said they were employed on local contracts as security guards.

The protesters are carrying placards reading "You're fired," "Leave now" "Human Rights for the Libyan people" and "Enough is enough".

They are also waving the old Libyan Green, black and red flag.

Early in the afternoon the protesters prepared a letter which reads:

"We are the Libyan community in Malta. On this very decisive day we call on the ambassador to submit his resignation to the non-official government of Libya and to bring down the Libyan flag, which is not the Constitutional flag of Libya .

"We are also calling on the ambassador to empty the building from any things related to the Gaddafi regime and to come out in the media and give them the right information on what is happening in Libya right now."

The letter was handed to the ambassador by two of the protesters. They said afterwards that the ambassador had refused to replace the flag because the current one is the only one that is internationally recognised. He told the protesters, however, that the embassy was their home as well, and he expressed his regret over what is happening in Libya. He also told the protesters he would keep them updated on developments in their country.,

At one time one of the protesters tried to set fire to a Green Libyan flag but was stopped by organisers.

One of the protesters denied claims by Col Gaddafi's son Sayf that Libya could face civil war. "That is untrue, Libyans do not kill Libyans, this is the work of mercenaries, he is trying to scare us." she said.

Meanwhile, a few minor incidents broke out early in the afternoon. At one time a man, the embassy's first secretary, walked out of the embassy and was mistaken for the ambassador. Some of the protesters tried to spit at him and others hurled abuses, but he was able to drive away under police protection.

In another incident, one of the protesters, looking very emotional, started shouting at a policeman, saying Malta would be held to account for having sent back migrants 'to be killed'. He was eventually calmed down by other policemen and protest organisers.

According to international reports, gun battles broke out in several parts of Tripoli this morning while the second city of Benghazi, in the East, has fallen to the protesters. In Tripoli, protesters reportedly ransacked the offices of a state TV station and other government offices (see http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110221/world-news/gaddafis-son-warns-of-civil-war ).

All Maltese are reported to be safe.

One immediate impact of the crisis has been a surge in international oil prices to a two-year high.

Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg said this morning that Malta was 'extremely worried' by the evolving situation.

See

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110221/local/malta-extremely-worried-by-situation-in-libya

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