Libya has dismissed arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for leader Moammar Gadhafi and two top lieutenants on war crimes charges linked to their suppression of an opposition uprising.
Justice Minister Mohammad al-Gamudi said Monday that Libya does not accept the legitimacy of the court.
The ICC issued the warrants earlier Monday against Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi.
The ICC indictment accuses Gadhafi and his aides of deterring protesters through the use of detention, torture and lethal force, such as ordering snipers to fire on civilians leaving mosques.
The judges' statement said there are reasonable grounds to believe the three were "criminally responsible" for the murder and persecution of hundreds of civilians during peaceful protests in February.
The judge said Mr. Gadhafi - who has ruled for 42 years - had "absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control" over the state. They described Seif al-Islam as the most influential person in an inner circle that established a state policy aimed at quelling civilian protests "by any means."
The head of the rebel Transitional National Council welcomed the ICC move and warned that anyone who tries to hide Gadhafi also will face justice.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the warrants are another indication Gadhafi "has lost his legitimacy." He said the Libyan leader must be held accountable.
Britain, France and Italy all praised the warrants.
The court said the three indicted Libyans must be arrested quickly to stop them from covering-up their alleged crimes and committing new ones.
Gadhafi is the second sitting head of state to have an ICC arrest warrant issued against him. One was previously issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but has yet to be served.
A NATO campaign of air strikes on Libyan government targets entered its 100th day Monday. Witnesses reported hearing two loud explosions in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with smoke rising from the area near Mr. Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound.
The alliance says it has been acting under a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for action to protect Libyan civilians from government attack.
Also Monday, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird made an unannounced trip to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, saying he wants to see how well prepared opposition leaders are to run the country if they defeat Mr. Gadhafi's government.
Tunisia's state news agency said Monday three Libyan government ministers, including Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, were holding talks with "several foreign parties" on the Tunisian island of Djerba. It did not give further details.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.