CAIRO â€“â€“ European Union foreign ministers Monday condemned Libyaâ€™s violent treatment of anti-government protesters and repression by the government of Moammar Gadhafi.
The 27 EU foreign ministers, in a statement following their regular monthly meeting, reportedly said the Council of Foreign Ministers â€œcondemns the ongoing repression against demonstrators in Libya and deplores the violence and death of civilians.â€
The use of force against protesters must end, and peaceful protests must be allowed, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Also Monday, two Libyan air force pilots landed their jets in Malta and asked for political asylum, according to news reports.
Anti-government protests raged Monday for the first time in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with unconfirmed media reports of pro-regime snipers firing into crowds, bloody clashes on the cityâ€™s main square and fires blazing in key government buildings.
Al-Jazeera reported that a fire was burning inside the Peopleâ€™s Hall, a symbol of Gadhafiâ€™s repressive regime. TV images showed demonstrators setting fires in the streets, but the size of the protests wasnâ€™t clear.
Snipers opened fire from rooftops on people protesting overnight, The Associated Press reported, citing an unidentified witness. The agency said gunmen driving in cars displaying photos of Gadhafi also opened fire on protesters in the streets.
There was no immediate word on Gadhafiâ€™s location. But after 41 years in office, his once-invincible hold on power appeared to be faltering.
The violence flared overnight, and witnesses said gunfire was heard across the city in the early morning. Government forces appeared to regain control of the central Green Square by midday Monday, according to the BBC.
Citing witnesses in Tripoli, the network said protesters had besieged the building that houses state-run TV and forced at least one channel off the air.
The reports from the capital came hours after Gadhafiâ€™s son acknowledged in comments broadcast early Monday that protesters had seized control of Benghazi â€“â€“ the countryâ€™s second-largest city â€“â€“ and several eastern towns. But he vowed that security forces would fight â€œto the last bulletâ€ against efforts to end his fatherâ€™s four decades in power.