TRIPOLI: Fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Qaddafi vowed again Thursday not to surrender, in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power.
In the message put out by the pro-Qaddafi Syria-based Arabic-language Arrai Oruba satellite television, the fallen strongman said he was prepared for “a long battle” even if Libya burns.
He urged his supporters to keep up their resistance to the insurgency that has conquered most of the country and forced him into hiding, as a major conference opened in Paris on aiding the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) to set up a new administration.
“Even if you cannot hear my voice, continue the resistance,” Qaddafi said.
“We will not surrender. We are not women and we are going to keep on fighting.”
“If they want a long battle, let it be long. If Libya burns, who can govern it? So let it burn,” he added in the message sent from an unknown location.
A senior rebel leader dismissed the speech as a reflection of Qaddafi’s “despair” at the success of the insurgency.
“Qaddafi’s speech is a sign of misery and despair,” Ahmed Darrat, who is overseeing the interior ministry for the rebels until a new government is elected, told AFP in Tripoli.
Qaddafi claimed there were splits between NATO, “the alliance of aggression” whose warplanes have paved the way for the insurgents’ advance, and the rebels, “its agents.
“His message followed similar defiant words from his son Seif al-Islam on Wednesday night, who said he, his father and “the whole family” were still in Tripoli, which fell to the rebels on August 20 after days of fierce fighting.
But rebel sources said unconfirmed reports put the Qaddafis in the loyalist-held town of Bani Walid, southeast of the capital.
“We have reports that Moamer Qaddafi has been in Bani Walid for the past two days, but these reports are not totally confirmed,” NTC vice chairman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told AFP.
He said clashes were still going on between rebel and pro-Qaddafi forces near the town.
“The revolutionary fighters are making progress and we are hoping for an end to the conflict soon,” he said.
A rebel commander, Abdel Raziq, said in Tarhuna, between Tripoli and Bani Walid he believed Seif al-Islam and another son, Mutassim, were in the latter town.
“About 80 percent of the people in Bani Walid are with the rebels and only 20 percent are with Qaddafi,” he said.
“We expect them to surrender, but if they don’t we will attack from three fronts,” he added without giving other details.
Qaddafi, however, boasted that his last bastions were impregnable.”Who can overcome Bani Walid, Sirte or Tarhuna? These towns are home to armed tribes and nobody can govern Libya without their consent,” he said in his fourth audio message since rebels entered Tripoli on August 20, seemingly unaware that insurgents were already in Tarhuna.
“At the end of the day, we will win the battle, the colonisers will go back to their countries and the agents will be finished with,” Qaddafi said.
The insurgents had earlier said they believed Qaddafi was hiding in his coastal hometown of Sirte, but another rebel commander said on Thursday they no longer thought that.
Seif al-Islam also vowed that the loyalists would fight to the death, in a separate audio message broadcast by Arrai.
But at the same time another son, Saadi Qaddafi, told the Al-Arabiya television channel he was ready to give himself up “If my surrender stops the spilling of blood.”
Algeria allowed one of Qaddafi’s wives, two of his sons and some of his grandchildren to cross the border on Saturday and seek sanctuary, angering the NTC.
But Algeria’s Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Thursday there was no question of granting Qaddafi himself asylum.Officials in the rebel base of Benghazi said on Thursday a deadline for forces loyal to Qaddafi to surrender had been extended by a week to September 10, but others in Tripoli denied it.
However Jalal al-Digheily, defence minister in the NTC, said at Nofilia, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Sirte, “There will be no attack on Sirte just now. We continue to negotiate to enter the city peacefully.”Rebel forces west of the town told AFP said they had been ordered to pull back from Abu Grain, 80 kilometres from Sirte, to Al-Sadaada, 160 kilometres away.
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