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NATO on Tuesday welcomed news that several Libyan military officers had defected to Italy, hailing it as proof that support for Moamer Gaddafi was crumbling.

Eight officers, including five generals, appeared in Rome on Monday to say they were part of a group of up to 120 military officials defecting from Gaddafi’s regime.

‘Gaddafi’s reign of terror is coming to an end. Even the ones closes to him are departing, defecting and deserting, and we saw a confirmation of that yesterday,’ NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told reporters in Brussels.

Military spokesman Mike Bracken, speaking via videolink from the operational headquarters of NATO’s Libya operations in Naples, said ‘the cracks in the Gaddafi regime are now clearly visible.’

The defecting Libyan generals were reported as saying that as a result of NATO strikes the pro-Gaddafi forces were at 20 per cent of their strength.

‘That is their assessment,’ Lungescu commented. m&c

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