• Obama refuses to rule out military intervention after late-night call to Cameron and Sarkozy
  • Prospect of setting up no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi bombing protesters
  • Gaddafi packs Tripoli with troops as he prepares 'last stand'
  • Cameron tells him: 'The world is watching, you will be held to account'
  • Up to 500 Britons still trapped in the country
  • Second Navy warship sent to pick up evacuees
  • Switzerland will 'freeze dictator's possible personal assets'

At least five people were believed to have been killed in Libya when forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi opened fire on protesters.

One resident in the Janzour district of Tripoli said the shootings happened as demonstrators shouted anti-Gaddafi slogans in the Fashloum district, in the east of Tripoli.

Thousands of Libyans were called to a mass demonstration in Colonel Gaddafi's stronghold - in defiance of shoot-on-sight directives issued to the military.

The outpouring of anger in Green Square after Friday prayers was seen as particularly significant as areas loyal to the Libyan leader dwindle.
© unknownDefiance: Protesters have defied a 'shoot-on-sight' warning issued by Gaddafi to demonstrate against the hated tyrant

The news came after Barack Obama held an emergency summit with the leaders of Britain, France and Italy to thrash out action plans to deal with the chaos caused by the uprising.

The U.S. president phoned David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi to express his 'deep concern' over Colonel Gaddafi's use of violence which he said 'violates every standard of human decency'.

But before making the urgent phone call, Mr Obama hosted a concert featuring stars including Nick Jonas, Seal and John Legend, to celebrate Black History Month at the White House.

© The Associated PressCelebration: President Obama speaks before the start of the White House Music Series saluting Motown in the East Room of the White House

© The Associated PressBefore making the urgent phone call, Mr Obama danced the night away at a concert featuring stars including (left to right) John Legend, Jamie Foxx, Nick Jonas and Seal, with First Lady Michelle
Some relatives of those who are still stuck on the catamaran trying to escape Tripoli harbour and in oil-field camps inside the country might take some exception to the revelry at the White house last night to celebrate Motown music.

Although both the U.S. and British governments have been heavily criticised for their slow reaction to the incendiary situation, the statement said discussions were to 'coordinate our urgent efforts to respond to developments and ensure that there is appropriate accountability'.

It continued: 'The leaders discussed the range of options that both the United States and European countries are preparing to hold the Libyan government accountable for its actions, as well as planning for humanitarian assistance.'

Among the options under discussion was a no-fly zone over the oil-rich nation to prevent Gaddafi's air force attacking his own people.

© PA/APSummit: The U.S. president phoned David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy to express his 'deep concern' over Colonel Gaddafi's use of violence to quell the uprising
© Getty ImagesA tired-looking Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg arrives in Downing Street to attend a meeting of the National Security Council today after being called back from holiday
Gaddafi is so angry about the prospect that he has flooded the centre with soldiers ordered to 'shoot-on-sight' at anyone causing trouble.

The desperate tyrant even appeared on state television offering bribes of £300 to families and promising a 150 per cent wage increase to workers who stay loyal to him.

But Libyans can rest assured that it won't come from his pocket since Switzerland announced today that it will freeze any assets he may have in its banks.

'The Federal Council strongly condemns the use of violence of the Libyan leader against the people,' the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

'Given the developments, the Federal Council has decided to freeze any possible assets of Muammar Gaddafi.'

But Gaddafi's inner circle vehemently denied he had any, adding: 'We demand that ... Switzerland proves that the brother leader has funds or bank accounts in its banks or in any other banks around the world.'

Tanks and other armoured vehicles were also taking up positions, while helicopter gunships whirred overhead.

Heavy gunfire explosions were heard overnight in the high-residential Tajoura district of the city, with locals reporting armed gangs roaming the street.

'It's sometimes hard to know whose side they're on,' said one. 'All carry weapons ranging from heavy machine guns to hunting rifles. It's anarchy at times.'

There were also clashes in Miisurata, around 150 miles east of Tripoli, where mortars and rocket-propelled grenades were used on protestors near the town's airport.

Skirmishes have also been reported in the towns of Sabha and Sabratha, near Tripoli.

© unknown

© ReutersBig guns: German warship The Deutsche Marine enters Valletta's Grand Harbour where it will wait to collect any European evacuees still stranded
The ordeal of hundreds of Americans and other foreigners stuck on a ferry for three days has ended as their ship finally left a Libyan port.

But thousands of Chinese workers hoping to be evacuated from the chaos are still stranded by rough sea.

The Maria Dolores, carrying 167 US citizens and 118 other foreigners, left Tripoli's As-shahab port for Valetta, Malta.

The United States is working to build consensus for action against Libya's government, which Obama has condemned for 'outrageous' violence against its own people.

'The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable,' Obama said on Wednesday. 'So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.'

Earlier White House spokesman Jay Carney said when asked whether the United States was considering military steps. 'I'm not ruling anything out,' he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Geneva for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday, where she was expected to push for broad condemnation of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's bloody attempt to suppress the revolt.

© AFP / Getty ImagesRelieved: Romanian evacuees cram inside a Hercules C-130 military warplane as they are flown home today

© The Associated PressShambolic: British evacuees unload from an RAF Hercules in Malta after being flown out of Libya
A full seven days after Colonel Gaddafi's bloody civil war broke out, an estimated 500 Britons were still stranded in the country.

Mr Cameron cut short his trip to the Middle East and flew home to chair a meeting of the National Security Council today.

And the deputy prime minister, enjoying a skiing holiday in the exclusive Swiss resort of Davos, actually admitted he had 'forgotten' he was meant to be standing in for Mr Cameron while the PM was away. He was flying home last night.

Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary William Hague were forced to issue grovelling apologies over the fiasco which has seen Britain embarrassed by countries such as Turkey, France and Russia in the scramble to bring their citizens home.

After British naval ship HMS Cumberland sailed from Benghazi yesterday afternoon for Malta with 207 evacuees, including 68 Britons on board, Mr Cameron said a second warship - HMS York - was being sent to waters close to Libya to help with rescue missions.

© AFP / Getty ImagesOn the way home: A group of stranded Britons are transferred to another aircraft for their final leg to Gatwick

© Mark Richards / Getty ImagesOne to tell your friends: Jaqueline Davids and husband Mick on HMS Cumberland with seven-year-old Alex, six-year-old Celia and Phillipa, three. Also being evacuated was five-year-old Hala Mansouri from Nottingham
Even the Royal Navy frigate sent to evacuate scores of Britons is a 21-year-old warship due to be scrapped as soon as it returns to Britain.

As a defiant but increasingly delusional Colonel Gaddafi prepared for a last stand:
  • Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt appeared to blow the cover on a covert SAS operation to rescue oil workers when he told a radio station special forces were ready to 'spring into action';
  • The first Foreign Office-chartered flight was delayed in Malta on its way home because the aircrew was 'out of hours' and those who did make it home told of their 'descent into hell' at Tripoli airport;
  • Colonel Gaddafi compared himself to 'Queen Elizabeth of Britain' and blamed the unrest on Osama Bin Laden and youngsters drinking Nescafe spiked with drugs;
  • The Libyan death toll reached 2,000, while 300,000 were on the move;
  • Oil prices continued to soar, up from $75 a barrel when the riots started in Tunisia to about $120 now, an increase of 62 per cent.
It is believed there are an estimated 500 British nationals still stuck in Libya.

Among them is diabetic Mike Browne, from Taunton, Somerset, who is held up in a compound with four other Brits and 40 Italians in the port town of Misratah, 150 miles from the capital Tripoli.

Health and safety worker Mr Browne, 54, who was just one week into his dream job in Libya, is understood to have just four days worth of food and water and limited medication for his condition.

SAS ready to rescue desert Britons

THE SAS was poised last night to rescue stranded British oil workers surrounded by armed militiamen in the Libyan desert.

Emergency plans have been drawn up for troops to 'help extract' dozens of Britons from remote bases in the heart of the country within the next 48 hours.

Up to 170 Britons - scattered among four or five locations across the country - are stuck in the desert facing the threat of a brutal backlash from pro-Gaddafi factions.

Their food and water running low, many have complained that they have been forgotten about by the British Government. Members of the Special Forces (SF) are already in Libya and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed yesterday that the SAS is ready to strike if the situation deteriorates.

He told London radio station LBC: 'The most significant news is the SAS troops that are now ready to spring into action.

© ReutersConflict rumbles on: Residents and former soldiers of Muammar Gaddafi celebrate inside a military compound in Benghazi
'They are obviously thinking very, very carefully about these 170 trapped oil workers and the issue now is how do we deal with people outside Tripoli rather than inside Tripoli.'

Mr Hunt made clear that preparations had been under way for days.

'Things like having SAS troops on stand-by aren't things that happen at the drop of the hat and these things have obviously been planned for days, if not weeks,' he said.

John Smith, 59, a drilling supervisor from Derby, who was working in the desert, described the horrendous conditions.

When looters carrying Kalashnikovs came to the camp, which is a nine-hour drive from Tripoli, the foreigners concealed themselves. His wife Carol said: 'John and the other Westerners hid. But the looters kept asking where the foreigners were.

'Then they set fire to the cabins where they all normally sleep. My husband's a tough guy but I can tell he's been scared. The airport was horrendous. He said there were so many people trying to get in, the authorities were hitting people with sticks to keep them back.'

Mr Smith is one of the lucky ones now safely back in Britain.

© KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex FeaturesBloody battle: At Al Abrak Airport in Eastern Libya the remains of a battle are scattered in the terminal and around the tarmac
Richard Bowley, 41, a business development manager for engineering firm AMEC, said he was stuck outside Tripoli airport with no food or water for 12 hours, waiting to get on a flight.

Wife Claire, who was waiting for him at Gatwick, said the last few days had been 'diabolical', especially as the couple have a three-month-old baby, Ava. Mrs Bowley said: 'Richard's fed up, cheesed off, furious the British Government didn't get their act together earlier.

'We were supposed to join Richard in March. Thank God we hadn't gone earlier - the thought of being in that situation with a young baby is just horrendous.' Mr Hunt's extraordinary statement left the Government open to the charge that they were exploiting the glamour of the special forces to put a gloss on the chaotic rescue mission.

The Tories had criticised former prime minister Gordon Brown when he revealed that 200 members of the SAS and the Special Boat Service were deployed in Afghanistan.

Last night, a major rescue operation - led by private security companies attached to oil giants - was under way.

A convoy of Land Rovers began extracting some 90 oil workers yesterday afternoon, heading for the coast near Benghazi - but 80 were still left behind.

Rescue options included SF members escorting convoys of vehicles to the coast or to a desert airstrip where they could be airlifted out. A Foreign Office source said: 'They have had an SAS unit positioned very close to the action for some time.' Another said: 'There are people on the ground in Tripoli. They have been defending the embassy and gathering intelligence. Clearly if we need to move into the desert, they will do so.'

The SF teams arrived in twos and threes on civilian flights via countries such as Germany and then linked up with the British embassy in Tripoli.

There they would have had access to the 'red box', a permanent source of kit and weapons held at every British embassy around the world.

The SF option in Libya is described as one of 'last resort', but at least two airfields have been identified and plans drawn up for the oil workers to gather at them.