Italy presents 5 Libyan generals who have defected

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 Gaddafi's military forces are now "only 20 per cent as effective" as what they were before the revolt broke out in mid-February, and that "not more than 10" generals remain loyal to Gaddafi.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam, who now backs the anti-Gaddafi rebels, told the news conference that the eight officers are "part of 120 officials who left and abandoned Gaddafi 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-Gaddafi 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."

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