Gaddafi: 'I'm not in France, I'm not in Venezuela, I'm still here'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi appeared on Libyan state television last night to insist that his 42-year rule over the country remained intact. As violence escalated in the capital, Tripoli, his foreign diplomats disowned him as a war criminal and elements of his feared security forces defected.



"I'm not in France, I'm not in Venezuela, I'm still here," he declared, while seated in the passenger seat of a car holding an umbrella up through the open door. The short clip was broadcast after a day of rumours about his whereabouts. Eyewitnesses and news reports had earlier said elements loyal to the regime were firing on protesters in Tripoli. Opposition leaders prepared for another night of defiance and called for crowds to occupy the city's vast Green Square.

Hundreds of people have died as the regime has attempted to stamp out six days of protests in several cities across the country. In the capital yesterday Gaddafi loyalists deployed snipers and roadblocks and, according to some witnesses, warplanes and helicopters.

Reports from inside the country continued to be confused last night, but outside Libya it seemed that the longest-established regime in the Arab world was crumbling. Emboldened, Libya's ambassadors to the United Nations called for Colonel Gaddafi to step down, joining a string of diplomats who have defected.

Last night, Colonel Gaddafi's grip on power appeared to be further weakened when a group of Libyan army officers issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to "join the people" and help to rid the country of their leader.

The disowning that began on Sunday with Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, Libya's ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, continued with diplomats in China, New York and elsewhere demanding that Colonel Gaddafi quit. "We are sure that what is going on now in Libya is crimes against humanity and crimes of war," the country's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, said. At a hastily arranged press conference in the lobby of the Libyan Mission in New York, under a giant portrait of Colonel Gaddafi, the diplomat called on the leader to resign. He said: "We find it is impossible to stay silent and we have to transfer the voice of the Libyan people to the world."

The growing feeling of discontent was matched by foreign diplomats. Issuing a statement, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, condemned the violence, saying that the world was watching the situation: "The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government."

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was said to have had an "extensive" telephone discussion with Colonel Gaddafi yesterday concerning the deteriorating situation in the country and "expressed deep concern at the escalating scale of violence and emphasised that it must stop immediately".

The regime has banned foreign journalists, leaving outsiders to rely on fragmented reports, such as an eye-witness account from Soula al-Balaazi, a Libyan man who told the Al Jazeera television network that he was an opposition activist. He said that Libyan warplanes had bombed "some locations in Tripoli". Others described seeing foreign-born mercenaries firing on crowds in the capital.

Libya's second city, Benghazi, flew the flag of the former monarchy toppled in 1969 yesterday, as protesters claimed to have "liberated" it after bloody clashes that left scores of people dead and hospitals overwhelmed with the injured. "Gaddafi needs one more push and he is gone," Amal Roqaqie, a lawyer at the Benghazi court, told the Associated Press, adding that protesters were "imposing a new reality" and would install a "transitional government".

Reports of defections abounded. Two Libyan air force colonels landed at Malta international airport in Mirage fighter jets after flying low across Libya to avoid detection and then communicating their request for asylum to air traffic control in Malta.

The scale of the shock inside a regime that has taken all of its orders from the top and learnt to live with the capricious whims of Colonel Gaddafi was clear from a rambling and contradictory television appearance by his son, Saif, in the early hours of yesterday. Saif gave a confused 40-minute speech which attempted to offer reforms while warning that further protests would result in a civil war in which Libya's oil wealth "will be burned".

The international community has spent recent years building bridges with the unpredictable, but seemingly entrenched, regime – only to see it teeter towards collapse in mere days.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain