Although the government loses control of key parts in the country and top officials quit, Muammar Gaddafi (photo), the Libyan leader who has been in power for 42 years, clings to power and vowed to “fight on”.
On Tuesday evening he spoke on television, saying he will fight on and die a “martyr” on Libyan soil.
Claiming that he had “not yet ordered the use of force”, Col Gaddafi warned that “when I do, everything will burn”.
After naming the protests an “armed rebellion”, he told his supporters to take back the streets on Wednesday. He said that security cordons set up by police and the military would be lifted, telling his supporters to “go out and fight [anti-government protesters]“.
He blamed the uprising in the country on “Islamists”, adding that an “Islamic emirate” has already been set up in Bayda and Derna. He threatened the use of extreme force in those places.
“I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end,” Col Gaddafi said.
Cheering the Libyan leader while he made his speech on television, several hundred people held a pro-Gaddafi rally in central Tripoli on Tuesday night.
In the meantime, in Benghazi, which is the second city of the country and one of the cities now controlled by anti-government protesters, demonstrators angrily threw shoes at a screen showing the address. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
‘Structure of the state’
Even though Col Gaddafi has insisted that Libya is stable, international leaders fear that the state structure is in critical danger.
William Hague, the British foreign minister, has said that there are “many indications of the structure of the state collapsing in Libya”.
“The resignation of so many ambassadors and diplomats, reports of ministers changing sides within Libya itself, shows the system is in a very serious crisis,” he said.
Since the beginning of the protests, several Libyan diplomats across the world have shown their disagreement. Some resigned in protest at the use of violence (including the alleged use of warplanes on civilian targets) against citizens, others renounced Gaddafi’s leadership, saying that they stand with the protesters.
According to witnesses in the capital Tripoli, and other cities, foreign mercenaries have been patrolling the streets, firing indiscriminately on those they encounter, trying to keep people off the streets.
While air strikes have also been reported against civilian targets, the government claims that warplanes were targeting arms depots and that the targets were not in residential areas.
The Libyan interior minister was the latest government official to stand down. On Tuesday night General Abdul-Fatah Younis said he was resigning in order to support what he termed as the “February 17 revolution”.
He urged the Libyan army to join the people and their “legitimate demands”.
Youssef Sawani, a senior aide to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Muammer Gaddafi’s sons, resigned from his post on Wednesday “to express dismay against violence”, Reuters reported.
Mustapha Abdeljalil, the country’s justice minister, had resigned earlier because of the “excessive use of violence” against protesters, and diplomat’s at Libya’s mission to the United Nations called on the Libyan army to help remove “the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi”.
The African Union conducted a “security meeting” on the situation in the country on Wednesday.
A special session will be held on February 25 by the United Nations Human Rights Council is to hold aiming to discuss the crisis in Libya, following a request from the European Union, an official for the council said on Wednesday.
Col Gaddafi’s speech led the Arab League to exclude Libya from attending meetings of the bloc until it stops cracking down on anti-government protesters. The league called what’s going on in Libya crimes against civilians and strongly condemned the recruiting of foreign mercenaries and the use of live ammunition, according to a statement read by Amr Moussa, the body’s secretary-general.
Several countries including Britain, the United States, Italy, France, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Greece have put into place arrangements for the evacuation of their citizens from the country.
On Tuesday Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said the use of violence was “completely unacceptable”, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said violence “amounted to [Gaddafi] declaring war on his own people”.
The next day Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, called for “swift and concrete sanctions” to be imposed and for economic and financial relations with Libya to be cut.
Ajdabiya is a key city near the country’s oil fields where protesters and tribesmen say they are protecting facilities and fields.
French energy giant Total announced on Wednesday that it was suspending part of its operations in Libya. This announcement followed Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol-YPF who said they shut down operations in the country, and Royal Dutch Shell who evacuated all personnel.
Fears that instability in Libya will affect world supplies of the commodity, oil prices have been pushed to two-and-a-half year highs.