• British weapons believe to have been used in massacre of over 300
  • UN warn that British Government could be guilty 'complicity' in killings
  • Tony Blair did deal with Libyan dictator seven years ago
  • Gaddafi's son says: 'We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet'
Britain faces growing condemnation over its courting of Colonel Gaddafi after the Libyan dictator ordered the slaughter of hundreds of his own people.

The United Nations and the U.S. Ambassador to London questioned the UK's cosy trade links with Tripoli yesterday.

British weapons are believed to have been used to murder more than 300 Libyan pro-democracy demonstrators.

Colonel Gaddafi
© The Associated PressIron fist: Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader for 41 years, is accused of ordering the slaughter of his own people

Tony Blair and Gaddafi
© PARisky ally: Former British prime minister Tony Blair did a deal with Colonel Gaddafi back in 2004

Relatives of those killed during the Lockerbie massacre condemned the 'shameful' British dealings with Gaddafi.

And Mona Rishmawi, legal adviser for the UN High Commission on Human Rights, warned that Britain might be guilty of 'complicity' in the killings.

More than 300 victims have been massacred - many by foreign mercenaries - during the government crackdown in Libya's second city, Benghazi.

© Getty ImagesMurderer: Gaddafi's orders to shoot those who rise up against him has been chastised all over the world

© EPAGame over: Protesters demanded that Gaddafi stop the bloodshed and relinquish his position
Protesters were gunned down in the streets, with reports that helicopter gunships and snipers were used to suppress the uprising.

The worst unrest of Gaddafi's 41-year rule comes seven years after Tony Blair's controversial Deal in the Desert, when the Labour Prime Minister ushered Libya in from the cold in exchange for billions in British business deals.

Since sanctions were lifted in 2004, UK firms have sold sniper rifles, tear gas, wall-breaching projectile launchers and crowd control ammunition to a regime found guilty of ordering the Lockerbie bombing, Britain's worst terrorist atrocity.

It paved the way for the near doubling of exports to Libya, worth almost £500million in 2009 alone.

Mr Blair's deal is widely seen as having paved the way for the controversial release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

But critics point out that the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, shot dead in London by a Libyan diplomat in 1984, has still gone unpunished.

Downing Street condemned the violence yesterday, with David Cameron said to be 'gravely concerned'.

Foreign Secretary William Hague revoked all trade licences to the regime on Saturday.

Yesterday he called the dictator's son Saif, who heads the so-called Gaddafi Human Rights Society, to express his alarm at the bloodshed.

Mr Hague said normalising relations with Libya had encouraged the country to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programme.

'There were important gains for the international community in trying to normalise relations with Libya, so I don't think we should regard that as a mistake,' he said.

But he denounced the Libyan authorities' use of force as 'dreadful and horrifying'.

Today in Brussels Mr Hague will urge other European leaders to voice their condemnation.

As recently as January 28, the Government's UK Trade and Investment body was trumpeting 'business opportunities in Libya'.

© AFP / Getty ImagesCriticised: The British Government has been accused of poor decision making after releasing Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber

© AFP / Getty ImagesCondemned: British Foreign Secretary William Hague (left) called Saif Gaddafi (right) to express his alarm at the bloodshed. Hague will ask other European leader countries to condemn the violence in Libya
At least 150 British firms operate in Libya, including British Airways, Bhs, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon Accessorize, HSBC, Corus International, KPMG, GSK, AstraZeneca, JCB, Rentokil, Ernst & Young, PWC, Land Rover, Mott MacDonald, AMEC and Biwater.

BP landed a £1.3billion gas and oil deal and a further £545million project to drill for oil.

Shell is also a huge investor in the country and British imports of Libyan oil have topped £1billion in recent years.

The UN's Mona Rishmawi said there was a 'real question mark' over selling weapons to regimes such as Gaddafi's.

'We are very concerned about any possibility of complicity in human rights violations,' she said.

Louis Susman, the U.S. Ambassador to London, told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: 'I would suggest that to deal with [Gaddafi] to give him greater stature, greater ability on the world front to look like he is a good citizen is a mistake.'

© ReutersUnhappy: Daniel and Susan Cohen, who lost their daughter Theodora in the 1988 bombing, believe that the British government have blood on their hands
Susan Cohen, whose student daughter Theodora died in the Lockerbie bombing, said Britain must share some of the blame for the massacre in Libya.

'This is what you get for appeasement,' she said. 'The dreadful bloodshed we are seeing on the streets of Libya is in part due to the disgusting behaviour of the British government.'

Lucinda Lavelle, secretary of the British Libyan Solidarity Campaign, said Britain's whole process of rapprochement with Libya was based on a false premise.

'Now we have all the evidence we need - Gaddafi has not changed one iota,' she said. 'He is still a vicious, brutal dictator who will murder anybody who stands in his way.'

A spokesman for Tony Blair said he was 'shocked and appalled' by the violence in Libya and 'continues to urge a political process of change'.

Fifty more Libya deaths take toll above 300 as mourners are massacred

By Nabila Ramdani and Vanessa Allen

More than 300 Libyans had lost their lives by last night in the Gaddafi regime's brutal response to protests against his rule.

The dictator unleashed commandos and mercenaries to massacre his own people as he sought desperately to hold on to power.

Security forces yesterday fired machine guns at funeral corteges for the second consecutive day.

© The Associated PressSupport: This video image broadcast on Libyan state television shows Colonel Gaddafi appearing with numerous supporters at various events in Tripoli, his stronghold
Witnesses described a cycle of violence in which protesters were killed on the streets and troops then opened fire on the crowds who gathered to mourn them.

At least 50 deaths were reported yesterday alone, following five days of demonstrations. Another 900 people were thought to have been injured.

The biggest challenge to Gaddafi's 41-year rule has been in the eastern port of Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, which was described as a 'war zone'. But there have also been uprisings in nearby al-Bayda and Darnah.

© ReutersAttacks: A crowd gathers as smoke billows from a building purported to be the internal security headquarters in Libya's second city of Benghazi, which has been described as a 'war zone'

© AFP / Getty ImagesHated: Anti-Gaddafi protesters vented their feelings all over the world including here in Washington
And last night there were even reports of protests in the leader's stronghold, the capital Tripoli.

Libya has taken the most brutal approach to the popular revolts sweeping through the Middle East.

In Bahrain, thousands set up a 'tent city' in Pearl Square in the capital Manama after days of unrest which left six dead.

Thousands of troops were deployed in the Iranian capital Tehran to stop anti-government rallies.

Protests also hit Yemen and Tunisia, and the unrest spread to Morocco for the first time.

Thousands marched in the capital Rabat, demanding greater democratic reform, and there were demonstrations in Casablanca and Marrakesh.

Some 3,500 UK nationals live in Libya, mostly in Tripoli, and many have fled their homes to return to Britain.

The Foreign Office said 50 people in eastern Libya were being helped to 'a place of safety'.

It has warned against non-essential travel to the country and urged Britons to leave unless they had a 'pressing need' to stay.

The bloodiest scenes were in Benghazi, where tens of thousands gathered to bury the protesters killed in clashes on Friday and Saturday and there were claims that troops were forced to retreat to their barracks, leaving demonstrators in control of the streets.

Government buildings were ransacked, a witness said, adding: 'The city is in a state of civil mutiny.' Officially, the national death toll was 173, but a doctor in Benghazi said she had seen 208 bodies brought into her hospital in one night.

The woman, from the Jalaa Hospital, said: 'It's really a massacre. You can't count them, they're everywhere.'

Journalists have been barred from entering the country and the government in Tripoli has shut down international news broadcasters and internet providers, and disrupted mobile phone networks.

© Reuters
Witnesses described seeing helicopter gunships, tanks and mercenaries from Chad and Sudan deployed against demonstrators armed with antique Arabic sabres and Molotov cocktails.

There were also unconfirmed reports of women and children leaping to their deaths from bridges to escape being gunned down.

Meanwhile, state television broadcast images from an alleged pro-Gaddafi demonstration in Tripoli and showed peaceful scenes in Benghazi of empty streets and grass being watered.

Government text messages were sent to mobile phone users, saying: 'We congratulate those who understand that interfering with national unity threatens the future of generations.'

Brute who surrounds himself with beauty

Profile by John R Bradley

While the deaths in Benghazi are deeply shocking, they are absolutely in line with the brutal regime that has kept Muammar Gaddafi in power for over 40 years.

© EPACharismatic and wildly unpredictable: But Gaddafi has managed to stay aloof up until now
This is a country where more than 1,200 prisoners at Tripoli's notorious Abu Salim prison are believed to have been massacred in a single month in 1996.

And where, more recently, there have been regular reports of prisoners being tortured, whipped, raped and executed without a fair trial.

Blocking social networking sites and suspending internet services, as the Libyan authorities have done over recent days, is nothing for an increasingly oppressive regime which tortures those who speak their mind freely and keeps an iron grip on the media.

But whatever the brutalities handed out by his army and secret police, Gaddafi has - until recently - always managed to remain aloof.

Charismatic and wildly unpredictable - almost to the point of madness - this is a man who clearly loves the company of beautiful young women (as illustrated by the 40 beauties of the notorious Amazonian Guard who act as his personal bodyguards) and yet leads one of the most conservative Islamic states in the Arab world.

That contradiction could prove to be a leading cause of his downfall.

The members of the Amazonian Guard have to be virgins. These brutal beauties are reportedly trained in martial arts and the use of firearms at a special academy, where they are turned into lethal and blindly loyal killers.

Gaddafi's conflicting passions for women and for Islam were typified on a state visit to Italy in 2009 when - having hit the headlines by paying 500 of Italy's most beautiful models to attend a party - he confounded expectations by simply handing each of them a copy of the Koran and a signed copy of his famous Green Book, setting out his political philosophies and beliefs.

Although difficult to pin down, these can be described as a sort of Islamic socialism.

The book is studied in Libya's schools and universities and is central to a cult of personality almost akin to brain-washing.

Until this week's demonstrations, Gaddafi had hoped it would propel his favoured second son, Saif, into power at some point.

Gaddafi couldn't be any more unpopular in his own country than he is now - but that certainly wasn't always the case.

When, as a 27-year-old Army captain, he led the military coup which deposed Libya's King Idris in 1969, it was so on a wave of popular support. And for the best part of two decades he stayed popular, using the profits from Libya's oil fields to improve education, healthcare and infrastructure.

In a huge country - the fourth-largest in Africa - rich in oil and minerals and yet with a population of no more than 7million, improving overall living standards wasn't too difficult for a while.

© The Associated PressIn line: A protester plays prophet and predicts the fall of Colonel Gaddafi
The United Nations trade sanctions, however, declared in 1992 after Libya was accused of being involved with the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, changed all that.

Unemployment is near 30 per cent in some regions and poverty is widespread. The ruling elite has become corrupt and remote, and Gaddafi's regime has become ever harsher to keep him in power.

Libya today is a very dangerous place, where human rights abuses have become commonplace.

Just as in Egypt and Tunisia, ordinary Libyans are now rebelling against this sort of autocratic dictatorship.

The crucial difference here, though, is that Libya's police and armed forces - fiercely loyal to their leader - won't stand idly by.

Gaddafi might yet go but not without considerably more blood being spilt.