The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on February 25 to discuss the crisis in Libya following a request by European Union, an official for the body said.

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“We received the request for a special session this morning, filed by the European Union,” Alessandro Marra, an official at the UN human rights office told AFP.

“Forty seven states are supporting the request, not all of them are members of the human rights council,” he added.

The meeting and debate by the 47 member states in the council is due to begin at 10.00 am (0900 GMT) in Geneva on Friday.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned on Tuesday that widespread and systematic attacks against civilians during eight days of turmoil in Libya “may amount to crimes against humanity.”

Meanwhile Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has reported that

Libya’s eastern province of Cyrenaica is no longer under the control of the country’s veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Italian Foreign Minister Frattini says he fears an immigrant exodus on a biblical scale if Muammar Gaddafi is ousted, predicting up to 300-thousand Libyans could try to flee their country.

Italy is already grappling with a mass influx of immigrants from Tunisia since the fall of its veteran ruler, but Frattini says that would be nothing compared to the number of immigrants that could flee neighbouring Libya.

Libya shut down illegal immigration flows across the Mediterranean to Italy after signing a friendship treaty with its former colonial overlord in 2008.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has developed close ties with Gaddafi with Libya accounting for 13 per cent of Italy’s gas supplies and almost a quarter of its oil.

Italy ruled the country between 1911 and 1942.