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As it happened Wednesday: N Africa/Mid-East unrest

Minute-by-minute coverage of the continuing unrest across the Middle East and North Africa on Wednesday.

  • Unrest continued in cities across the region.
  • The UN Security Council condemned the use of force in Libya against anti-government protesters.
  • Col Muammar Gaddafi still holds on to power in Libya, but reports suggest his authority is now down to only a few strongholds.
  • Protests continued in Yemen, and the Bahraini government released a group of Shia prisoners.
  • Live page reporter: Michael Dobie, Sarah Bell, Joe Boyle, James Morgan and Katie Connolly.
  • All times in GMT.

2332 This concludes our live coverage of the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. Keep checking the BBC website for the latest news, analysis and expert insight on the events in Libya and beyond as they unfold.

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2329 The group Shabab Libya tweet: "Gaddafi now ordering mercenaries to clean streets of Tripoli, as 2000 start cleaning - preparation for media entry."

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2315Mathew from London writes: "I have just spoken to my girlfriend who is outside Tripoli airport with other British nationals and staff from the British Council. They had been promised seats on today's UK chartered flights yet she reports that they have been refused entry to the airport, have been waiting in the rain and hail and have been without food, blankets or first aid. Young children are present and can be heard crying the background. Some Britons have had to leave on flights to Warsaw."

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2310 CNN's Ben Wedeman tweets: "Ad hoc government in Benghazi has set up committees to deal with security, public health, food supplies, evacuating foreigners."

2301Alistair Burt, the Undersecretary of State of the Foreign Office, has said all options, including coalition military action, were on the table in Libya. In an interview with the BBC, he said: "I think all options mean all options and all possible means in order to make the country safer and get people out safely and stop the violence. All options are on the table but let us see what United Nations partners are able to do when they consider this matter very carefully during the course of the week."

2255US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Geneva on Monday to attend a session of the Human Rights Council, where she will discuss the crisis in Libya with her counterparts.

2246London resident Tricia Levy, whose brother is in Libya, told the BBC that the British government is not doing enough to help him, and that their advice is "far from reassuring". She said:"No one is answering at the British embassy. My brother talks of shootings, and roads which are too dangerous to use. Supplies are running low."

2242The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says that neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave any details today of the options they might pursue to pressure the Libyan government. Sanctions and the freezing of assets are a possibility but this is unlikely to help end the violence in the short term, she says.

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2238 U. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley tweets: "The ferry departure from #Libya to #Malta is delayed due to high seas. Citizens are safe on board. It will leave when the weather permits."

2236CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry says that unnamed US administration officials have told him that White House had feared Americans in Libya could be taken hostage if President Obama took an aggressive approach to Libya. That is partly why Mr Obama held off speaking on the crisis until late Wednesday, Henry says.

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2228 Democracy Now! Correspondent, Anjali Kamat tweets from eastern Libya: "All are excited to see journalists. They say #Libya is now 15% free and we are now in a liberated zone controlled by the people #feb17"

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2222 Tripolitanian tweets: "#Misrata: Protesters seemed to have the upperhand in this battle, almost prepared, managed to defeat mercs/army despite use of tanks."

2219Mr Obama called for the world to "speak with one voice" in condemning the Libyan violence. He acknowledged that the demonstrations there are being driven by the Libyan people, not the US or other foreign powers. He said it is a basic aspiration - the aspiration for a better life - that is the motivating force behind the anti-government protests.

2215Mr Obama said in a televised statement that the US condemns the violence in Libya, adding that it violated both international norms and common decency. He said that his national security team had been working around the clock to prepare the full range of options for dealing with the crisis.

2209US President Barack Obama has said that the "suffering and bloodshed" in Libya is "outrageous and unacceptable".

2206UK Foreign Office confirms its much-delayed charter plane for Libya has finally left Gatwick.

2205British Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced that he will review the system for aircraft evacuations following a series of problems and setbacks in evacuating British nationals from Libya.

2158The BBC's Europe Correspondent Chris Morris says six European Union countries which border the Mediterranean are calling for other EU member states to share the burden if there's a huge influx of refugees fleeing the unrest in North Africa. The countries are urging the EU to establish a common asylum and relocation system by the end of next year. These are extremely controversial proposals, which won't be warmly received by Britain or many other countries. But Italy in particular has warned that it could be facing what it calls an exodus of biblical proportions if events in Libya continue to spiral out of control.

2148More difficulties for the UK's Foreign Office. After much criticism for not helping Britons get out of Libya, it has chartered a plane - but the plane is grounded at Gatwick with technical problems. Another plane is in Italy. And it seems Foreign Office staff have given up waiting for their own transport - they've arrived in Libya on a plane chartered by BP.

2144In the US, market concerns over the situation in Libya have pushed crude oil prices to $100 (£62) a barrel. This is highest US oil prices have been since October 2008.

2140Col Gaddafi's daughter Aisha tells state TV she has no information about the UN's decision to strip her of her role as a goodwill ambassador (see 2017 entry). She also denies earlier reports that she tried to flee to Malta.

2114Regarding the military frigates moored in Tripoli harbour (see 1753 entry), analysts say it is not unusual for warships to be moored in Tripoli, so the panic of locals might not be justified.

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2107Yahya in Cairo writes: "Gaddafi will step down only under one condition - if all the people come together and remember that they are humans and should not be on the side of the tyrant."

2106Saadi, a former professional footballer, also said his brother Saif al-Islam is currently writing a new constitution for the country.

2105Saadi Gaddafi, one of the colonel's seven sons, tells the Financial Times newspaper that his father is planning to work with any new regime as the "big father".

2050US President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak about Libya at 2215.

2047Col Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam appears on state TV to declare that life is "normal" in Libya's western regions: "The ports, schools and airports are all open. The problem lies in the eastern regions."

2039More from Ban Ki-moon: "Those responsible for brutally shedding the blood of innocents must be punished."

2037UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is speaking about Libya: "The world has spoken with one voice. The government of Libya must meet its responsibility to protect its people."

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2030 Democracy Now! Correspondent, Anjali Kamat tweets from eastern Libya: "All are excited to see journalists. They say #Libya is now 15% free and we are now in a liberated zone controlled by the people #feb17"

2025As if responding to Mrs Clinton's speech, the UK's Telegraph newspaper has a thought-provoking opinion piece arguing: "Why should these matters be left to the Americans, or to Nato forces? Are other Arab leaders so intent on saving their own necks, or so wary of fomenting insurrection elsewhere, that they will do nothing beyond denouncing Gaddafi?"

2023US secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks on Libya: "We have to get the international community together - to that end we joined a very strong UN security council statement yesterday. We are joining the rest of the world in sending a message to the Libyan government that it will be held accountable."

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2020 Soliman Albrassi tweets: "Proud to be Libyan. Proud of Benghazi. Praying for Tripoli. God bless them, help them in their struggle."

2017UN spokesman Martin Nesirky: "Aisha al-Gaddafi was appointed as a national UNDP Goodwill Ambassador to Libya on 24 July 2009. Her appointment at that time enabled UNDP to address the issue of HIV/AIDS and violence against women in Libya - both culturally sensitive topics in the country. Following the recent events, the UNDP has terminated the agreement with Ms Gaddafi, based on the UN guidelines for the designation of goodwill ambassadors and messengers of peace."

2015More bad news for the Gaddafi family: the colonel's daughter Aisha has been axed as a UN goodwill ambassador.

2010Have you ever used a Libyan domain name? If you've linked to anything on Twitter, you probably have. The .ly suffix, beloved of those who want to shorten their links (usually to bit.ly), belongs to Libya, and according to "policy wonk" Jerry Brito writing in Time's Techland section it faces an uncertain future.

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2004Gail Mullens in Calgary, Canada writes: "My husband was evacuated from Tripoli by Suncor, he will be home to Calgary on Thursday. I have been to Tripoli three times. These people are the same as us, they are our sons and daughters, friends and family, co-workers, husbands, wives. To not step up and curb this right now is unthinkable."

1957The BBC's Ian Pannell sums up the situation on the Tunisia-Libya border: "Hundreds of people poured through the border today, most were clinging on to the few possessions they'd managed to grab before fleeing. Blankets, suitcases, children's toys and even a television set. The picture they paint is of a confused, dangerous and fluid situation. Some say they were threatened and robbed, and one man spoke of being beaten up because he was unable to sing the Libyan national anthem."

1954British politician Sir Menzies Campbell says there should be an inquiry into how the UK has handled the evacuation of its nationals from Libya: "Now, the concentration should be on rescue and not recrimination. But we will have to have an investigation when these matters come to a conclusion. And we certainly have got to ask ourselves whether we did everything that was possible in the circumstances."

1949More from John Simpson on the Egypt-Libya border: "Because he has run Libya as chose, it's been chronically unstable. A book of short stories he wrote in the 1990s suggests he suffered from depression. He called himself a poor Bedouin, the butt of everybody's jokes. But in fact, he ruled the country with ferocity."

1947The BBC's John Simpson has this on Col Gaddafi: "He's not without his supporters, they appear regularly on state TV. But the obedience and total silence he has imposed on the nation as a whole have come to an end."

1944Bahraini protesters are continuing their vigil in Pearl Square, the centre of anti-government demonstrations. One protester, Sabah Abadi, tells AP news agency: "Even if they put the gun in my mouth and order me to leave, I will not. I'm here day and night."

1939To recap the situation in Libya: sporadic reports of fighting in and around Tripoli have trickled in throughout the day. A BBC reporter in the east of the country says the whole area appears to be under the control of anti-Gaddafi forces - a mixture of defecting soldiers and local militias. In the west, the picture is less clear, with pro-Gaddafi forces in control of border posts and checkpoints, but apparently losing control of some towns and cities.

1936More from the BBC's Paul Danahar on the Tunisia-Libya border: "One woman told me there were many pro-Gaddafi supporters in civilian clothes at the checkpoints. Some were young teenagers holding automatic weapons. She also said a truck of Chinese construction workers was not allowed through the checkpoints.

1920Backing up earlier accounts from fleeing Egyptians, Reuters quotes workers as saying it was Col Gaddafi's speech that forced them out of the country. Builder Mahmoud Hadiya, 28, tells Reuters: "I packed my bags as soon as his speech was over. To die in our country is better than to die there. I will try to find a job in Egypt."

1910The Kuwaiti ambassador in Libya, Mubarak Al-Adwani has left the country "on a temporary basis", due to the ongoing unrest. "Under the (current) conditions, the (Kuwaiti diplomatic) mission cannot work normally," he said.

1905More now from the US, where state department spokesman PJ Crowley has been holding a news briefing on the situation in Libya: ''We are looking at a full range of tools and options that are available to us to achieve our goal... that certainly includes looking at sanctions that could be imposed."

1855Khaleel, a resident of Tripoli, has been describing the atmosphere in the Libyan capital. "The streets are quiet, because there are many, many, many deaths; many killed," he told BBC News.

1840More from Gerard Buffet, the French doctor who was treating casualties in Benghazi's university hospital at the height of the violence. Speaking to the BBC World Service, Dr Buffet said that on the first night alone, he examined 100 people and carried out 20 operations - all of them gunshot wounds to the abdomen. Later he had to deal with head wounds and burns cases.

1838The US is reviewing options to compel the Libyan authorities to stop violence in the country. The White House said President Barack Obama was very concerned for US citizens in Libya and would look at UN sanctions among other responses to the civil unrest.

1833Mr Ping "is in contact with the Libyan authorities and other actors and will pursue his efforts for an end to the spilling of blood," the statement said.

1829The African Union has issued a statement condemning "the disproportionate use of force" against civilians in Libya. The pan-African body said that AU Commission chief Jean Ping was following the situation in Libya "with great concern".

1818Mr Netanyahu said: "Because of the current violence in Libya I received a personal request from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas... that Israel allow a number of Palestinians to leave Libya and to enter the Palestinian territories... so Israel will enable 300 Palestinians to enter the Palestinian areas."

1814Israel will allow 300 Palestinians in Libya to return to the Palestinian Territories as a humanitarian gesture, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced.

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1809 Guardian reporter Martin Chulov, in Benghazi, tweets: "Sound of kalashnikovs cracking night sky in Benghazi. Mostly triumphant. Though 2 people slain today. Passenger ferries queued off benghazi coast waiting for evacuation call."


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1756 New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweets: Amazing: I hear by phone that Tajura, #Libya , less than 10 miles from Tripoli, has fallen. Rebel flag flying over it."

1753The BBC website has , including one Tripoli resident who told BBC Arabic there were now four military frigates in Tripoli ports, amid fears the gunships are on standby to fire on the capital.

1748A Yemeni cabinet source tells BBC Arabic that the government will form a committee to investigate the death of two people in Tuesday's anti-government protests.

1746David Mack, a retired US diplomat, tells Reuters: "It was unquestionably necessary to assure the safety of Americans before taking the kind of very strong rhetorical position that I expect you are going to hear in the coming days."

1745There's been a lot of talk about America's relatively muted response to the Libya unrest. Reuters speculates that the US wants to get the several thousand Americans who live in Libya out of the country before criticising Col Gaddafi.

1741Popular Bahraini blogger Ali Abduleman is among those freed by the authorities in a concession to the protesters there (see 1149). He joined the protests almost immediately, telling Reuters: "Do you want the royal family out of this country or not? If we manage these different opinions in our opposition we will get what we want."

1730More from Barbara Plett: Diplomats say it's hard enough to get an agreement in the security council to come up with a statement; to get agreement on actual measures would be much much harder.

1729So what is the UN security council going to do to tackle the Libya unrest? The BBC's Barbara Plett says: "At the moment, there has been no discussion of any concrete measures at all. All efforts have been concentrating on agreeing a statement."

1726More from the BBC's Paul Danahar on the Tunisia-Libya border: "A Tunisian woman who was living just outside Tripoli but fled to the border said that at checkpoints along the way people's phones were being checked for images of unrest. If any were found they were deleted and any computers with images were confiscated. This is the second group of people to tell me this."

1724Bringing events in Yemen up to date, seven MPs belonging to the president's party have resigned over the crackdown on protesters.

1717Russian worker Aleksandr Vorkachev, in Ra's Lanuf, tells Ekho Moskvy radio: "A camp with Russian citizens has been surrounded by Arab militant extremists."

1714Russian officials have said all of their citizens have now left Libya, but the Ekho Moskvy news agency is carrying a report from claiming Russians are still there, and are in danger.

1712More from Jon Leyne: "In the early days of the unrest, the government tried to bring in reinforcements - literally bussing them in to fight the protesters. But the protesters contacted people living around the bases, who blockaded the areas and fought these elite forces for days, and eventually won the battle."

1710The BBC's Jon Leyne is in eastern Libya. He's been to one of the areas main military bases: "We've been shown footage and heard eyewitnesses accounts of the government bombing the area from the air, and attacking protesters from helicopters."

1657Diplomatic sources tell AFP news agency that the EU has ordered sanctions to be drawn up against the Gaddafi regime that could include an assets freeze and a visa ban.

1654
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Libyan Youth Movement tweets: "under ground prisons being discovered in Benghazi, political prisoners being found alive, not seen light of day for years#Libya"

1652
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BBC Africa Have Your Say tweets: "Dr Chambas says the crisis in North #Africa is viewed as Arab or Middle East issue by the African Union #Libya"

1650So the Gaddafi regime is nearly finished. Or is it? The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner has taken a look at exactly who is propping up the long-time ruler.

1640The BBC's Sarah Rainsford is at Madrid's Barajas Airport, where people have just arrived from Tripoli. Venezuelan oil worker Cesar Orta told her: "About 5,000 people were at the airport trying to get in. People without tickets. It was hard to get in. I think most were Algerians or Egyptians."

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1635 New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweets: "#Libya military officer tells me 3 naval ships ordered to sail to Benghazi to attack it. Crew torn about what to do."

1632European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso says he has been talking to Italian officials about a possible influx of immigrants: "I think if this problem develops that way, we have to be ready to do it in a European way, because these people are not just trying to come to Italy. We have to prepare a response that is compatible with our values."

1627
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End Tyranny in Benghazi tweets: "'Libya Free Free and Gaddafi out out' is the chant right now...#Benghazi #Libya #Feb17"

1625Humble apologies for those of you who've notice that the text stalled for an hour. We had a technical glitch, which is now fixed. Thanks for staying with us.

1610 An eyewitness crossing the border between Libya and Egypt at the port of Al Salloum has told BBC Arabic's Tawfiq Ahmed that "the citizens now are controlling the situation." But the eyewitness added that he saw "horrible things", including what he described as "secret underground prisons."

1607One British expat told the BBC that Portuguese diplomats arranged her flight out of the country: "There's no communication, there's no telephones and there is no guarantee that you've got any support at all from the British Embassy. The help we needed was to know when you got to the airport there would be a British ambassador there, like there was for Portuguese."

1605The UK is sending planes to Libya to pick up expats, amid fierce criticism by those who were stranded there.

1556 More from Al Salloum on Libya's eastern border, where BBC Arabic's Tawfeek Ahmed says he can see "thousands" of people coming to Egypt through the port. However, he reports there are also a lot of cars going towards the Libyan borders: "They carry medical aid and food to tribes in Libya from their families in Al Salloum."

1554 BBC Arabic are reporting that former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil - who has resigned during the unrest - has told a Swedish newspaper that he has evidence Colonel Gaddafi personally ordered the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, which killed 270 people.

1533 AFP is reporting that Libya's deputy foreign minister told a meeting with EU ambassadors in Tripoli that Al-Qaeda has set up an Islamic emirate in Derna, eastern Libya, headed by a former US prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

1526 More from the BBC's Paul Danahar on the Tunisia-Libya border: "I just spoke to a group of 40 Egyptians and Tunisians who'd been building a hospital in Zuara on the Libyan coast. They fled after hearing Col Gaddafi's speech, which accused foreigners of being behind the uprising. They said they believed the army and militias control all the areas between the border at Ras Adjir and Tripoli. They said they had to cross many checkpoints on their way out.

1517 Botswana's foreign minister Phandu Skelemani says he has been shocked by events in Libya, and told BBC's Focus on Africa he was cutting ties with Tripoli: "We can't have diplomatic relations with a person who is doing what he is doing."

1507 Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had his say on the Libyan uprising, telling state TV: "It is unimaginable that there is someone who is able to kill and bombard his own people. This is very grotesque."

1503 The BBC's Paul Danahar on the Tunisia-Libya border says: "There are a group of a few dozen Tunisian men at the Ras Adjir border chanting Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi your turn is coming."

1459 The International Criminal Court prosecutor says he cannot investigate crimes in Libya unless the country's authorities accept the court's jurisdiction or the UN Security Council refers the situation. "The decision to do justice in Libya should be taken by the Libyan people," Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.

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1454 Iyad El-Baghdadi, who describes himself as an Islamic libertarian, has put together this useful map in an attempt to show who controls what in Libya.

1449 The North Africa representative for the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Gerard Lautradou says some 5,000 people had crossed the Libyan/Tunisian border by Tuesday night. He says they are going to prepare themselves for the numbers to significantly increase. "It's an option that we won't have something like 2,000 people coming from Libya to the Tunisian border but we are prepared to receive 10,000 per day."

1444 More on the evacuation of British nationals from Libya. Foreign Secretary William Hague has told a press conference the UK government will send out "as many planes as necessary" to bring them home. Hundreds have already left and is believed there are at least 300 remaining in the Tripoli area. HMS Cumberland will arrive off Libyan coast by Wednesday night, Mr Hague added.

1440 France is coming out with increasingly strong statements on Libya. Foreign affairs minister Laurent Wauquiez says the president wants France to suspend all its trade, economic and financial relations with Tripoli, adding: "To be clear, we shall not let what is happening in Libya take place with impunity."

1437 More on the Libyan air force plane which crashed after its crew refused to bomb the city of Benghazi. Reuters says Libya's Quryna newspaper has quoted a military source, a colonel at an air base near the city, as saying captain Attia Abdel Salem al Abdali and his number two Ali Omar Gaddafi bailed out of the Russian-made Sukhoi-22 plane and parachuted to earth.

1432 An eyewitness in Tripoli says there are reports of three people being killed in a drive-by shooting at a bakery queue in the Fashloum district on Tuesday. She said in another incident, four people were shot dead, one at point-blank range.

1428 Reuters is reporting a Libyan newspaper as saying a crew had orders to bomb Benghazi but refused to carry them out.

1424 AliTweel in Tripoli tweets: "Any punishments applied by the UN on Libya will only effect the people. Please remember this."
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1418 More from the BBC's Paul Danahar: "There is a steady stream of people coming across the Ras Adjir border crossing. Dozens of people are coming through every few minutes. Some in cars but most on foot dragging or carrying their possessions in suitcases and boxes," he says.

1413Meanwhile on Libya's eastern border with Egypt, Tawfeek Ahmad of BBC Arabic in Al Salloum has spoken to two Egyptians, who said that the road linking Benighazi to Egyptian border is being manned at the moment by ordinary people, and that the situation is much better than it was under the government management.

1409 More from the French doctor's account: "Like the other youths, he had gone off, bare-chested, to attack strategic government positions... In the first days, the police had piled up the dead to intimidate them; they carried on. They want it over once and for all, they know that it's this week or never that the regime falls."

1408 Gerard Buffet, a French doctor who returned to France on Monday after working in Benghazi, believes the death toll is at least 2,000. Speaking to Le Point magazine, he described a war zone: "In Benghazi, there were snipers everywhere. I wound up flat on my stomach in the streets, it was real carnage. I resuscitated one of my 6th-year med students: he had taken a bullet in the head, which had come out through his mouth."

1404 More from the BBC's Paul Danahar, who says unlike on the Egyptian side, the Libyan government still holds the Ras Adjir border crossing which is just a few hours drive from the capital Tripoli. "Unconfirmed reports suggest several towns between the border and Tripoli are now held by the anti-government forces but the roads in between are held by people loyal to Col Gaddafi," he says.

1358 Othman Darhobi in Tripoli tweets: "#Libya #Tripoli blood donors at Tajura hospital R turned away at gun point by #Gaddafi thugs "
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1357 More on the effect of the unrest on oil prices. Another measure, Brent crude, was $0.77 up at $107.57 a barrel, having hit $107.66 earlier.

1351 We're getting information from the BBC's Paul Danahar who is at the Ras Adjir border crossing between Libya and Tunisia. "One man, a Tunisian, who just crossed over from Libya said there was no law inside. God help them he said," he says.

1346 Over in Yemen, Reuters are reporting seven members of parliament have resigned from President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling party to protest against what they describe as government violence against demonstrators. "The people must have the right to demonstrate peacefully," Abdulaziz Jubari, a leading parliamentarian who has resigned, said.

1343In further oil-related news, German oil firm Wintershall has become the latest to say it has stopped oil production in Libya due to the security situation, AFP reports. The company has 400 employees there, mostly Libyans, and produces 100,000 barrels per day.

1339 The situation in Libya has caused oil prices to hit two-year highs of around $96 a barrel, amid concerns supplies could be disrupted. Libya holds the most oil reserves in Africa and is the world's 15th-largest crude exporter at 1.2 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration.

1331 Meanwhile, the UK Foreign Office has confirmed its first charter flight has permission to land in Libya later on Wednesday afternoon and a second will leave the UK as soon as possible. It says 122 Britons are registered for the first flight and its teams report the airport is peaceful but there are chanting crowds outside.

1327 More on the evacuation of UK citizens from Libya. Rob McKenzie has just left Tripoli but told the BBC the Foreign Office should have done more. "I agree with the criticism of the British Embassy - in times like these we look to the Embassy to help and I felt they let us down. This should be David Cameron's priority. I just hope that the rest of the people we left there have now made it out," he says.

1322 Sinai activist and blogger Mosaad Fagr, who was detained during the revolution in Egypt, has told BBC Arabic in an interview that the political prisoners released in a general amnesty announced today by Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy "must be compensated for the time they spent in prisons".


1317 We're getting the first live television pictures Libya since the crisis began. The pictures, from Associated Press Television News, show a large crowd of people in a main square in Tobruk, waving banners and placards saying "Free Libya". There's a line of riot police wearing helmets and carrying shields, but they look decidedly outnumbered. The scene, however, appears peaceful.

1313 More on the situation in Tripoli from a British man called Sebastian, who has dual Portuguese nationality and was airlifted out by the Portuguese authorities. He told the BBC: "We have, I know 30 people who are stuck out in homes, frightened to get to the airport because of course the soldiers who are out on the streets looting and plundering and they don't want to go out, they're frightened, and so it's a really terrible situation they're in at the moment."

1310 Spain's Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, has added her voice, saying a leader like Col Gadaffi who has "decided to bomb his own citizens" has already lost "all legitimacy" to continue to lead Libya.

1306 Further international condemnation of the violence in Libya, with Israeli President Shimon Peres saying Libyans "will not forgive" Col Gadaffi's actions. "The fact that he used arms and brutally killed hundreds of people, people will not forgive him because the right to demonstrate is a human right," he told a news conference in Madrid.

1304 More on the chaos unfolding at Tripoli's airport as foreigners try to flee the crisis. Kathleen Burnett, of Baltimore, Ohio,told Associated Press news agency as she arrived in Vienna on an Austrian Airlines flight: "The airport was mobbed, you wouldn't believe the number of people. It was total chaos."

1300 We have been hearing reports that large parts of the east of Libya have fallen. AFP reporters say they have seen rebels, many of them armed, while travelling all along the coastal road from the Egyptian border to Tobruk city. Government soldiers are switching sides to join the uprising, they report.

1255 A female eyewitness in Tripoli has contacted BBC Arabic to report that there are electricity blackouts in some areas of the city at the moment.


1253 The French foreign ministry says it will respond favourably to an Egyptian request to freeze the assets of former president Hosni Mubarak and his family, AFP news agency reports. Their fortune is estimated to run into the billions.

1249 The crisis in Libya has been leading TV news bulletins in the region, says BBC Monitoring, which examines media around the world. Coverage on channels including the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya has shown what is described as attacks by mercenaries on protesters and pictures of dead civilians.

1243 More on those economic measures that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has announced. Billions of dollars are to be put into a development fund that will help Saudis purchase homes, start businesses and get married, state TV reports. Is King Abdullah, just returned from three months overseas for surgery, nervously eyeing events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and in his own neighbour, Bahrain?

1237 An update on the two Libyan air force pilots who defected to Malta in their jets. Police are still interrogating them, local journalist Keith Demicoli tells the BBC World Service. They have asked for political asylum but it is far from clear they will be given it, in view of Malta's strong political and commercial ties with Libya, he says.

1232Several different groups in neighbouring Egypt are organising aid convoys into Libya. One organiser, Teymour Anwar, told BBC Newshour they are trying to get seven doctors and £30,000 of medical aid across the border. "We plan to take that as far as we can inside (into) Libya to hospitals, to medical clinics and the doctors who are with us have worked in emergency rooms and in war zones as well too, so they're familiar with how to treat injuries that they might see there" he says.

1231 Some hope for some of the Britons stranded in Libya. The UK foreign office says a charter flight is due to land at Tripoli's airport later today to pick up Britons. "We are hopeful that the flight will return to the UK this evening. A second flight will leave the UK as soon as possible. Our embassy is already in contact with around 300 British nationals in and around Tripoli and giving instructions on how to catch the flight," the statement said.

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1227 ShababLibya tweets on a conversation he has had with his uncle in Benghazi: "Uncle: (benghaz) you can not believe how peaceful it is, its so beautiful reminds me of before gaddafi #Libya #Feb17"

1220Many journalists have been unable to enter Libya and report on events there. In the absence of photographers and TV crews, some of the only images coming out of Libya are being posted on the internet. This image on Twitter purportedly shows pro-Gaddafi slogans on walls in Libya painted over with whitewash.


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1214 Libyan Dude tweets: "I'm surprised by the amnt & size of the independence flags ppl are putting on bldngs in cnsdrng theyve bn outlawed for 42 yrs"

1210Coverage on events in Libya appear to have been split in the country's media on Wednesday. The state TV and news agency were firmly on Col Gadaffi's side, while internet opposition radio was against the Libyan leader. Meanwhile, Libyan news websites are not being updated.

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1208 Another tweet from the Guardian's man in Benghazi, Libya, Martin Chulov , who says: "In benghazi, People r saying ghaddafi's coup started in this place and will now finish here 42 years later. #libya#feb17."

1205 More condemnation of Libyan security forces for using violence against protesters. This time from EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who said the deaths of protesters was "horrible" and would "not remain without consequences".

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1203 An anti-Gaddafi group based inside and outside Libya, tweeting under the name ShababLibya says: "Having spoken to them and seen videos, the people of Libya have been incredibly brave and given their life for their freedom".

1159 At least 300 people have been killed so far in the uprising in Libya, and there are reports that Col Muammar Gaddafi's control is now limited to just a few pockets of territory including parts of the capital Tripoli and the southern town of Sabha. Governments, as well as the UN, have condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters and are scrambling to evacuate their citizens.

1154 If you're just joining us, welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the unrest in Libya and across the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

1153 There are some 10,000 Europeans in Libya that EU member states are trying to evacuate, says a spokesman for the European Commission, the bloc's executive, Reuters says. The commission is to discuss possible sanctions against Libya later today.

1149 In Bahrain, 23 Shia Muslims accused of trying to topple the Sunni monarchy have been released, Reuters says, quoting a lawyer in the Gulf kingdom. That follows the release of 200 other, mostly Shia, prisoners detained in recent months. The release of political prisoners had been a key demand of protesters who want the government to resign.

1144In Libya's neighbour, Egypt, Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy has issued a general amnesty for all criminal prisoners and political detainees from the Sinai peninsula, a BBC Arabic reporter says. The 350 prisoners are mainly Bedouins, and their detention had been a thorny issue in relations between the Bedouin community and the former Mubarak government.

1140 More on that Turkish worker reported killed near Tripoli. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the man's name was Yunus Emre Celik and that he was killed at a construction site where he had been working.

1134 More on those reports that mercenaries are being used in Libya against protesters. Libya analyst George Joffe, from the Centre for International Studies at Cambridge University, says the origins of the force go back to the 1980s, when Col Gaddafi argued that Libya should be open to anyone who was Muslim. "What are now described as foreign mercenaries are, in fact, people brought into Libya as part of the regime's ideological awareness of its wider Muslim dimension and they're now being used against the Libyan people themselves," Mr Joffe told the BBC.

1129 The Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that more than 2,900 Chinese nationals are to be evacuated from Libya via a border crossing with Tunisia. More than 30 shuttle buses are bringing the first batch of evacuees to the Tunisian resort of Girba, Ambassador Huo Zhengde said. There have been reports that many Chinese businesses in Libya have been attacked or looted.

1120 Britain's former ambassador to the UN (1998-2003), Sir Jeremy Greenstock, tells the BBC World Service that foreign military intervention in Libya is unlikely. There has been a trend among UN member-states in the last 20 years towards self-interest and non-intervention, he notes. Nor do Americans want their government to act as a world policeman, he argues.

1119 The protests in Manama, Bahrain, come as King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifah holds talks in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, who has just returned after a long absence for surgery.

1117 Thousands of protesters over in Bahrain, the small island kingdom in the Gulf, next to Saudi Arabia, have taken to the streets again to press their demands for reform. Protesters won back possession of Pearl Square in the capital Manama on the weekend after security forces were ordered back. The traffic roundabout has become the focal point of protests there.

1112 Video purportedly showing mercenaries on the streets of Tripoli has been posted on the internet. The video has not been verified and it is difficult to make out anything other than several jeep-loads of soldiers driving down a street. But it follows reports that mercenaries have been used by Libya's authorities to try to quell the protests.

1106
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More from the Guardian's Martin Chulov in Benghazi: "Air force major tells me of witnessing 4k african mercenaries arriving from feb 14 'that's why we turned against them'."

1105 Britain's foreign office has been trying to reassure Britons stranded in Libya that everything is being done help them. A statement just released from the foreign office tells Britons stranded in camps in the desert to stay where they are for the time being if they are safe there. "Communications are very difficult in Libya at the moment, but we are doing all we can to contact every British National in Libya so that we can help them," the statement says.

1101 There are also Russians in Libya trying to flee the unrest. One of them who has just arrived back home described to Rossiya 24 TV the chaotic scenes at Tripoli's airport: "There is a crowd of people, several thousand of them, on the land in front of the airport, where there is no heating, no food or water, no toilets, nothing."

1055 Just reported by Reuters news agency, quoting Turkish TV - a Turkish worker has been shot dead near Tripoli.

1053
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The Guardian's Martin Chulov says many troops in Benghazi have defected: "Amazing scenes in yard of ransacked police hq in benghazi. Massive armoury looted from barracks by defecting troops. #libya".

1049 Saudi Arabian state TV now says King Abdullah has returned to the country after his three-month absence for surgery. Saudi Arabia has largely escaped the unrest in the rest of the region.

1047 The Netherlands says it has sent a second plane to Libya to evacuate about 70 more of its citizens. An earlier flight pulled out 32 Dutch and 50 other nationals from Tripoli's airport.

1040 A British woman who has just made it out of Libya has provided the BBC with harrowing tales of her experiences there in the last several days. She said: "In Janzur there are mercenaries shooting people in the street." She also said a friend still in Libya told her yesterday there was bombing. Other friends on their way to the airport were told to get out of their bus and lie on the road with their hands on their heads. They were eventually unharmed, the woman told the BBC. But she is still worried: "Now you can't get in touch with anyone in Libya because telephones aren't working. I'm very anxious about my friends."

1033 Some of you may have noticed that there are multiple spellings for the Libyan leader's name. The BBC uses Muammar Gaddafi, but there is also Gadafy, Qaddafi, Gadhafi, Kadafi and many more. The variety springs from the various ways to transliterate Arabic into English. The Irish Times notes that there are 112 different English spellings of his name knocking around.

1024 Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah seems intent on ensuring his smooth return to the kingdom, after his long absence for surgery. The king is to boost benefits for government workers, students and others, AFP news agency says.

1021 The UN Human Rights Council says it will hold a special session on 25 February - Friday - to discuss the crisis in Libya. A UN official said the EU had requested the session. The UN human rights high commissioner, Navi Pillay, said on Tuesday that what is happening in Libya "may amount to crimes against humanity".

1017 CNN carries a report of an interview with former Libyan Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younis al-Abidi, who resigned on Tuesday. Mr al-Abidi said Col Gaddafi was so stubborn that he will not give up. "He will either commit suicide or he will get killed."

1011 More from French President Nicolas Sarkozy on his call for EU sanctions against Libya: "The international community can not remain a spectator to these massive violations of human rights," a statement from his office says.

1008 Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says he believes estimates that 1,000 people have been killed in the unrest in Libya "are credible". But, "we have no complete information about the number of people that have died," Reuters quotes him as saying.

1003
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Another tweet from the Guardian's Martin Chulov: "Camp site set up at benghazi. Large anti-ghadaffi demo here. Effigies of him hanging from looted govt buildings."

1000 AFP has news of another potential hit for Libya's economy as French President Nicolas Sarkozy calls for the the EU to adopt "swift and concrete sanctions" and to suspend economic and financial relations with the country.

0957 Video has been posted online that seem to show a large number of burials taking place simultaneously. The contributor who sent them to online video community One Day On Earth says the burials took place on Tuesday in Tripoli. The veracity of the video can not be verified but a journalist at BBC Monitoring says it looks very much like Libya.

0951 Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says that Libya's eastern province of Cyrenaica has slipped out of the control of Col Gaddafi, AFP news agency reports.

0948 The Philippines is another country with lots of its nationals in Libya. Vice-President Jejomar Binay says he will fly to the Middle East to review arrangements to evacuate as many of the 30,000 Filipinos in Libya who want to leave.

0944
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Martin Chulov adds: "Phones and email not working. Can only send and receive text messages."

0942
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The Guardian newspaper's correspondent Martin Chulov has made his way to Benghazi, from Baghdad, where he is usually stationed. He sends this tweet: "Seen anti aircraft shell casings on streets in benghazi #libya. Damage on nearby buildings shows they were widely used." There were reports several days ago that Libyan security forces had used anti-aircraft artillery against protesters there.

0937 Moving to Saudi Arabia now, where King Abdullah is returning from Morocco, where he has been recuperating after surgery in the US. He'll find things have changed in the region in his absence. He went to New York in November last year for two operations on a herniated disc complicated by a haematoma.

0933 More on that resignation in Libya. "I resigned from the Gaddafi Foundation on Sunday to express dismay against violence," Reuters quoted Youssef Sawani as saying in a text message to one of its correspondents. Mr Sawani was executive director of the foundation, which had been Saif al-Islam's - Col Gaddafi's son - chief means of wielding influence.

0929 Support for Libya's Col Gaddafi seems to be haemorrhaging further. Reuters news agency says that a senior aide to the Colonel's son, Saif, resigned today.

0925 French energy giant Total says it is "starting to suspend" part of its oil production in Libya. The unrest there has already caused oil prices to spike to levels not seen since 2008.

0923 Evacuations are taking place of foreign nationals from Libya. Three thousand Turks have left the port of Benghazi on two ships sent by their government. The Netherlands has evacuated 32 Dutch citizens and 50 people from other countries from Tripoli airport. The US has hired a ferry and is telling its citizens in Tripoli to go to the port.

0922 Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the unrest in Libya and across the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.




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