Gaddafi urges Libyans to take up arms against NATO

By REUTERS
August 15, 2011 06:00

Sources say that Gaddafi and rebel representatives were holding secret talks in Tunisia; Gaddafi makes first public statement since Ramadan.

3 minute read.



Muammar Gaddafi appears on State TV

Gaddafi on state TV 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Libyan TV)

TRIPOLI - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi urged his people early on Monday to "liberate Libya" from NATO and traitors, a day after rebels captured a key town on the road west to Tunisia, severing Tripoli's main supply route.

Late on Sunday, representatives of Gaddafi's government were holding talks with rebels at a hotel on the southern Tunisian island of Djerba, a source with direct knowledge of the talks said -- though the government spokesman denied it.

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The talks followed a dramatic advance by the rebels that won them control of the town of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli on the coast, enabling them to halt food and fuel supplies from Tunisia to Gaddafi's stronghold in the capital.

Tripoli was not under immediate threat from a rebel attack, but rebel forces are now in their strongest position since the uprising against 41 years of Gaddafi's rule began in February, controlling the coast both east and west of Tripoli.

Gaddafi's speech on Monday, delivered over a poor quality telephone line and broadcast by state television in audio only, was his first public address since rebel fighters launched their latest offensive, the biggest in months.

"The Libyan people will remain and the Fateh revolution (which brought Gaddafi to power in 1969) will remain. Move forward, challenge, pick up your weapons, go to the fight for liberating Libya inch by inch from the traitors and from NATO," the Libyan leader said.

"Get ready for the fight ... The blood of martyrs is fuel for the battlefield," he said, in what state television said was a live speech.

At the talks in Djerba late on Sunday, "Representatives of the rebels and Gaddafi representatives are having a meeting now," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He did not identify the negotiators.

In Tripoli, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim blamed Western leaders and the media for the spread of rumors that Gaddafi's government was engaged in talks on the leader's departure from Libya.

"This information is absolutely incorrect and it is part of a media war against us. Their target is to confuse us, break our spirit, and shake our morale," he said.

"The leader is here in Libya, fighting for the freedom of our nation. He will not leave Libya," Ibrahim said.

Gaddafi's characteristically defiant speech followed a day of action across a swathe of northwest Libya during which rebels said they had seized the town of Surman, next door to Zawiyah, there was fighting in the town of Garyan that controls the southern access to Tripoli, and shooting could be heard near the main Libyan-Tunisian border crossing.

Government spokesman Ibrahim said Zawiyah and Garyan were "under our full control" but that there were small pockets of fighting in two other locations in the area around Tripoli.

The coastal highway between Tripoli and Tunisia had not been blocked by the fighting, Ibrahim said in a telephone interview on Sunday, but foreigners were not being allowed to use the route "to save them from any bullets here or there."

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