HEAVY gun fire has been heard raking the streets of Tripoli, as Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi makes a defiant stand. There can be no doubt now that he will stop at absolutely nothing to hang on to power, along with his family entourage who until recently were assiduously courted by the British and Italian establishments.

Here is a list of international organisations who have thus far failed to do anything concrete to halt the butchery (it is by no means complete): the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union, NATO, and last but by no means least, the United Nations, despite the valiant attempts of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Russia and China also remain silent, complicit therefore in the murderous carnage being carried out by a leader who is likely clinically mad but who knows that no one from outside will move against him. The United States, which of course has tried to remove Gadaffi in the past, reserves judgement, but post-Iraq is very well aware how finely balanced the arguments are for intervention. The British, who have done so much to placate the Gadaffi clan in recent years couldn’t even manage to get a charter plane to leave on time to pick up stranded Britons.

The idea that at this stage Gadaffi will be swayed by international condemnation is moonshine. He is in too deep to respond to threats to seize his bank accounts or re-impose sanctions. But Gadaffi cannot act without sections of the regime and military remaining loyal. So the time surely has come for our pusillanimous international institutions to do the following: 1) Institute an immediate no fly zone; 2) offer sanctuary to defecting Libyan pilots and naval staff; 3) freeze all Libyan assets; and 4) make it abundantly clear that those military that have taken part or ordered attacks on civilians will be held to account under the jurisdiction of international law—that they can run, but they cannot hide. To take it one step further and attempt to organise a snatch squad to lift Gadaffi, and/or his family out of Libya and into custody, would be hugely risky, but might work. It may also be time to throw caution to the wind, because apart from Daniel Ortega and Kim Jong Il, the mad Gadaffi hasn’t any friends left.