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UK tells Gaddafi loyalists to defect

British officials are contacting senior Libyan regime figures directly to persuade them to desert Muammar Gaddafi or face trial alongside him for crimes against humanity, the Guardian has learned.

world Updated: Feb 26, 2011 23:19 IST

British officials are contacting senior Libyan regime figures directly to persuade them to desert Muammar Gaddafi or face trial alongside him for crimes against humanity, the Guardian has learned.

With SAS troops and paratroopers on standby to rescue an estimated 150 Britons at workplaces in the Libyan desert, contingency measures were being drawn up to close the British embassy in Tripoli to pre-empt possible reprisals.

But the foreign office denied reports that the embassy would be closed as soon as this weekend. “We will react to the situation as it unfolds on the ground. If it gets too dangerous for our people to be there, of course we will pull them out of there. But are we planning to close the embassy down? No,” a spokesman said.

Britain's direct warnings to Libyan officials coincided with a joint British and French draft UN security council resolution the Libyan leadership to face war crimes prosecutions at the international criminal court for attacks on protesters.