On May 30, the Italian government presented eight Libyan officers who
recently defected. They said this comprised part of a group of as many as
120 troops who fled the North African country.
The officers who appeared in Rome consisted of five generals, two
colonels and a major. They told a news conference organized by the Italian
government that the Gadhafi regime was rapidly weakening and that officers
were choosing to defect rather than fire on civilian protesters, Middle East Newsline reported.
"There are no more than a dozen generals left," Halasi said.
Halasi said Gadhafi commanded the loyalty of no more than several
hundred soldiers. At the start of the rebellion, the Libyan military was
said to number at least 20,000.
Another defector, Gen. Yahmet Saleh, said Gadhafi was relying on two
brigades to secure his regime in Tripoli. Saleh said the two brigades were
the last units that were still searching and arresting suspected opposition
Opposition sources confirmed reports that Libyan soldiers and officers
fled their units. They said at least 34 of them escaped to neighboring
Tunisia and were offered help by NATO states.
Gadhafi has been alarmed by the defections, the sources said. They said
Gadhafi has replaced senior officers with his relatives.
"Gadhafi's troops have already collapsed on the Western Mountains,
which have come under the full control of the revolutionary forces," Saleh
Still, NATO does not believe that the military defections would lead to
the collapse of the Tripoli regime. Officials said the Libyan rebels were
incapable of overcoming the well-equipped security forces, and that the only
option was to oust Gadhafi.
"We hope that all of this happens as soon as possible, but this depends
on Col. Gadhafi," NATO military council chief Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola said.
"It is he that has to see there is no other way out."