Gaddafi vows fight as world backs new leaders

TRIPOLI,  (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi urged his  supporters from hiding to fight on as Libya’s new interim rulers  met world leaders yesterday to discuss reshaping a nation torn  by 42 years of one-man rule and six months of civil war.

Muammar Gaddafi

“Let it be a long battle. We will fight from place to place,  from town to town, from valley to valley, from mountain to  mountain,” Gaddafi said in a message relayed by satellite TV on  the anniversary of the coup that brought him to power in 1969.

“If Libya goes up in flames, who will be able to govern it?  Let it burn,” he said with his trademark verbal flamboyance.

In further comments broadcast later, he vowed to prevent oil  exports, in the kind of threat that stirs fears of an Iraq-style  insurgency: “You will not be able to pump oil for the sake of  your own people. We will not allow this to happen,” Gaddafi  said. “Be ready for a war of gangs and urban warfare.”

Amid conflicting reports of where the 69-year-old fugitive  might be, a commander in the forces of the new ruling council  said he had fled to a desert town south of the capital, one of  several tribal bastions still holding out.

Seeking to avoid more bloodshed, opposition forces also  extended by a week a deadline for Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte,  on the coast, to surrender.

Meeting the National Transitional Council in Paris at the  invitation of France and Britain, prime backers of the Libyan  uprising which followed other Arab Spring revolts, Western  powers said Gaddafi was still a threat, but handed the NTC $15  billion of his foreign assets to start the job of rebuilding.

“The world bet on the Libyans and the Libyans showed their  courage and made their dream real,” Mahmoud Jibril, the prime  minister in the interim government, said as NATO air forces  maintained support for NTC fighters on the frontlines in Libya.

A history of tribal, ethnic and regional friction as well  as divisions during the rebellion have created a wariness among  Libyans and abroad about the ability of the new leaders to  introduce the stable democracy that is the declared goal for the  potentially oil-rich nation of six million.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Paris: “The  work does not end with the end of an oppressive regime. Winning  a war offers no guarantee of winning the peace that follows.”

“We will be watching and supporting Libya’s leaders as they  keep their stated commitments to conduct an inclusive  transition, act under the rule of law and protect vulnerable  populations,” she added, pledging to continue military support  and calling on Gaddafi and his entourage to give themselves up.

Clinton also urged the new leaders to work with those who  once supported Gaddafi — something the prime minister in the  ousted government, al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, said he was also  doing, according to a report by al-Arabiya television.

Other powers, notably Russia and China, have been slower to  warm to Gaddafi’s enemies but attended the Paris conference as  international competition warms up for a share of contracts in  rebuilding Libya and in exploiting its big oil and gas reserves.

Russia recognised the NTC as Libya’s government on Thursday.

Given sensitivities among Arabs and Muslims after Western  campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, British Prime Minister David  Cameron was at pains to stress that Libyans were in charge of  their own fate.

“This is not being dropped out of a NATO aeroplane, this is  being delivered by the Libyan people,” he said. “It is their  revolution, it is their change.”


Abdel Majid Mlegta, coordinator of 7the Tripoli military  operations room for the NTC, told Reuters “someone we trust” had  said Gaddafi fled to Bani Walid, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of  the capital, three days after Tripoli fell. With him were his  son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi,  all three of them facing international war crimes charges.

An Algerian newspaper said Gaddafi was in the border town of  Ghadamis and phoned Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to  appeal for refuge. Bouteflika did not take the call, though  Algeria has taken in Gaddafi’s wife and three of his children.

Mlegta said Gaddafi was planning a fightback from Bani Walid  but that appeals to notables in the town to hand over Gaddafi  had gone unanswered. He ruled out attacking the town because of  tribal ties shared by its residents and many NTC fighters.

Independent reports from Sirte and Bani Walid have not been  availabale with communications cut. NTC commanders say residents  are running low on supplies but many remain loyal to Gaddafi.

Mohammed Zawawi, an NTC spokesman in the eastern city of  Benghazi, said extending a deadline for surrender until next  Saturday would save lives.

“We’re not in a rush to get in to Sirte,” he said. “We’re  not going to lose casualties for it.”

In the desert east of Bani Walid, a Reuters correspondent  saw columns of anti-Gaddafi forces on patrol but found fighters  unready to mount an offensive yet.

“Right now we are waiting. Everyone is ready to fight. Sirte  will be liberated first, then Bani Walid,” said fighter Ibrahim  Obaidr.


In Tripoli, two million residents are starting to see new  supplies of food, and fuel supplies are adequate but there is no  end in sight to a water shortage caused in part by pro-Gaddafi  forces being in control of facilities inland, EU officials said.
For many of its inhabitants, it was the first Sept. 1 they  could remember when they had not been forced to celebrate the  1969 coup against King Idris which put a 27-year-old army  captain called Muammar Gaddafi in charge of their lives.
At Tripoli’s Green Square, once the stage for his parades  and now renamed Martyrs Square, there no crowds, only casual  passers-by and men gathering spent bullet casings for scrap.

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