TRIPOLI - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi warned the Western powers mounting air strikes on his country they had unleashed a war between Christians and Muslims that could spiral out of control.

Western states intervened in Libya after the United Nations authorized them to protect civilians it said were under attack by pro-Gaddafi forces, but Tripoli says the military intervention in an act of unwarranted aggression.

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"If they continue, the world will enter into a real crusader war. They have started something dangerous that cannot be controlled and it will become out of their control," said a text from Gaddafi, read out on state television.

"The leaders who decided to launch a crusader war between Christians and Muslims across the Mediterranean and who ... killed... huge numbers of civilians in Libya, they have been made crazy by power and they want to impose the law of strength on the strength of the law," it said.

"They have also destroyed the shared interests of their people and the Libyan people and undermined peace and wiped out civilians and they want to return us to the Middle Ages," Gaddafi was quoted as saying.

Gaddafi gave regular televised speeches in the first days of the conflict but he has not been seen in public for several days. Officials say he has been forced to change his routine after an air strike hit the heavily-guarded compound in Tripoli where he has his main residence.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that the western coalition's mission is not to remove Gaddafi but that he will likely be removed from power by his own people over time.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen joined Gates in addressing the US Congress, saying that Gaddafi's military capabilities were diminished but he was not close to a military breaking point.

The UK government on Thursday reported that about 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of Gaddafi thus far.

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