Muammar Gaddafi: I am still in Libya
The regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi of Libya is on the verge of collapse, but the dictator has hit out at the “dogs” who claimed he had fled the country.
As the violence intensified and indiscriminate shootings were reported in Tripoli, Gaddafi appeared on state television early on Tuesday to deny “malicious reports” he had fled Libya after several cities fell to opposition forces.
Libyan air force jets launched bombing raids on military bases and, it was claimed, rebel areas in a final attempt to reassert control.
Two colonels in the air force flew their jets to Malta, saying they had refused orders to fire on protesters in the second city Benghazi and wanted to seek asylum.
Senior regime figures, including his public security minister, justice minister and seven ambassadors around the world, also deserted Col Gaddafi. Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Omar al-Dabashi, described his leader’s actions as “genocide” and pleaded for international intervention.
In his brief appearance on Libyan television, where he was filmed leaning out of the back of a car holding an umbrella, Gaddafi claimed he was still in Tripoli.
Earlier, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said he had seen information to suggest Col Gaddafi was on his way to Venezuela. But in the footage, which could not be authenticated, Gaddafi insisted people should not believe the “dogs” who made such claims. Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister, also criticised Mr Hague’s “irresponsible” comments.
Pro-democracy campaigners said they believed Gaddafi would head to the southern town of Sebha, where he grew up and which he turned into a stronghold, to make his last stand. “Sebha is Gaddafi’s ancestral home, the place he was brought up and where the people will always be loyal to him,” said one. “If he is there, then there will be a bloodbath because his allies will fight to the last man to defend him.”
Reports from across Libya suggested that a speech on Sunday night by Col Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, threatening that the regime would “fight to the last bullet” had backfired badly.
After anti-Gaddafi rebels took control of Benghazi, protesters took to the streets of Tripoli, which had previously been less badly affected.
There are unconfirmed reports were emerging of mass and indiscriminate shootings in a number of districts of the capital.
David Cameron, who on Monday became the first world leader to visit Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, called events in Libya "quite appalling".
He has also asked his officials to investigate whether any Britishmade weapons have been used in the "vicious repression".
Mr Cameron last night flew on to Kuwait, where he will today deliver a speech making a "liberal conservative" call for widespread political reform in the region.
"We've got a very important trading relationship that we want to expand and we've got a very important security relationship, not least in terms of combating extremist terror, that we need to sharpen," he said.
"A process of political and economic reform doesn't run counter to those other two objectives. It goes with those objectives."
In his speech, Mr Cameron will also tacitly criticise the support Western governments have previously shown for Middle Eastern strongmen like Mr Mubarak.
But the Government faces an embarrassing fall-out from what officials now expect to be the end of a regime which has lasted since Col Gaddafi seized power in 1969.
While the United States supported the lifting of sanctions following the regime's agreement to give up weapons of mass destruction, it was London which led attempts to open up Libya's oil industry to outside investment.
Last night, BP said it was suspending operations in the country, four years after it returned there for the first time in three decades. It said it was attempting to organise the evacuation of 40 British employees and their families, mostly from Tripoli.
The Foreign Office said it was trying to help other Britons escape the violence.
Events in the Middle East, where Col Gaddafi looks set to become the third leader to fall in six weeks after Mr Mubarak and President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia, have sent shock waves through world markets.
Oil prices rose yesterday, particularly after analysts began speculating that unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia, which faces its own planned Day of Rage on March 11. The price of Brent crude oil hit $105.3 (£64.8) a barrel.
Across the world, Col Gaddafi's operatives defected. The Libyan mission to the United Nations said it no longer represented the regime. Its deputy ambassador, Ibrahim Omar al-Dabashi, described his leader's actions as "genocide" and pleaded with the international community to intervene.
Two colonels in the air force flew their jets to Malta, saying they had refused orders to fire on protesters in Benghazi and that they were seeking asylum.
Meanwhile, as opposition movements continued to spring into life throughout the region, the kingdom of Bahrain, where the army fired on protesters last week, announced it was cancelling next month's grand prix, the first of the season.
Datum: 22. 02. 2011
Válka v obrazech: Unikátní fotografie z 2. světové války