A defiant Moammar Gaddafi spoke on national television Tuesday, refusing to step down from power, and vowing to “fight to the last drop of blood” and “die a martyr.”
Despite heavily mounting opposition, including the resignations of a number of diplomats including the Libyan ambassadors to the U.S. and India — Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969, called on his supporters to take back the streets.
During a long and rambling speech – and his second appearance on state television in one day — Gaddafi announced vague reforms to local government, including some kind of a role for his son Saif.
Gaddafi spoke from a podium in front of what appeared to be his residence on the grounds of an army barracks that was bombed by U.S. air raids in the 1980’s.
As the BBC reports:
In his first major speech since unrest began last week, Col Gaddafi said the whole world looked up to Libya and that protests were “serving the devil”.
Reading from the country’s constitution, he said enemies of Libya would be executed.
He blamed the unrest on “cowards and traitors” who were seeking to portray Libya as a place of chaos and to “humiliate” Libyans.
The protesters had been given drink and drugs, he said, frequently shouting and banging his fist on the table as the address continued.
He called on “those who love Muammar Gaddafi” to come on to the streets in support of him, telling them not to be afraid of the “gangs”.
“Come out of your homes, attack them in their dens. Withdraw your children from the streets. They are drugging your children, they are making your children drunk and sending them to hell,” he said.
“If matters require, we will use force, according to international law and the Libyan constitution,” and warned that the country could descend into civil war or be occupied by the US if protests continued.
Gaddafi also alluded to the fact that he has not pulled out the stops on violence, and referred to China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the FBI’s siege in Waco, TX in 1993. Al-Jazeera (via the Guardian) pointed out a line Gaddafi used in comparing his reaction to unrest to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989: “The unity of China was more important than the people of Tiananmen Square.”
In the meantime, NBC News correspondent Richard Engel, who found his way into Libya from Egypt, reported part of the east of the country has “fallen” to the protesters, and was no longer controlled by the central government. U.S. officials confirmed Engel’s report, as well as that military units have defected to side with the protesters, and a tribe crucial to Gaddafi’s survival said they would not back the dictator because of his brutal treatment of the people.
Witnesses described the streets of Tripoli as a war zone, says the New York Times:
Human Rights Watch said it had confirmed at least 62 deaths in the violence in Tripoli so far, in addition to more than 200 people killed in clashes elsewhere, mostly in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising began last week. Opposition groups estimated that at least 500 people had been killed.
Without acknowledging the gravity of the crisis in the streets of the capital, he described himself in sweeping, megalomaniacal terms. “Muammar Qaddafi is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution,” he declared.
Earlier, the state television also broadcast images of a cleaned up Green Square in central Tripoli, the scene of a violent crackdown Monday night. It showed a few hundred Qaddafi supporters waving flags and kissing photographs of him for the cameras.
With the Internet largely blocked, telephone service intermittent, and access to international journalists constrained, information from inside the country remained limited, and it was impossible to determine whether the demonstrations were staged.
The rebellion is the latest and bloodiest so far of the uprisings that have swept across the Arab world with surprising speed in recent weeks, toppling autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia, and challenging others in Bahrain and Yemen.
However, as a U.S. official told NBC News, “This is not Egypt… The people who would have to turn on him are his loyalists and the place is such an autocracy it’s just not likely, at least as of now.”
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