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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high