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.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?