Tutu says Gaddafi should step down

He was speaking on behalf of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders which also includes Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Elders said today that the only way to end the bloodshed in Libya was for the international community to maintain pressure on Gaddafi to step down.

They welcomed the unanimous vote in the United Nations Security Council to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court over its violent attempt to suppress the uprising.

They added, however, that the move was not likely to provide immediate protection to civilians and that other measures may be necessary to protect Libyans.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Archbishop Tutu praised the bravery of the Libyan people in standing up to Gaddafi.

“This is a moral universe – the Libyan people have right on their side and I am confident that they will succeed in their quest for freedom,” he said.

“I admire their courage in facing up to a leader who has in effect declared a brutal war on his own people to cling to power.

“Gaddafi must recognise the truth – that the people of Libya are demanding change and he cannot stand in their way.”

International pressure on the Gaddafi regime was notched up a gear last night as the United Nations General Assembly agreed to suspend Libya from the UN Human Rights Council last night, a move welcomed by Foreign Secretary William Hague.

He was quoted by the Press Association as saying: “Suspension from the council puts yet more pressure on the Libyan regime to listen to the clear message of the international community – crimes will not go unpunished and will not be forgotten, there will be a day of reckoning and the reach of international justice is long.”

Britain favours the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya but the proposal has failed to gain the support of the US and faces strong opposition from Russia.

With only displays of defiance from Gaddafi and his family, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that thousands of Libyans could die in the struggle.

He said: “We need concrete action on the ground to provide humanitarian and medical assistance. Time is the essence. Thousands of lives are at stake.”