Clinton Blasts Gadaffi 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TRIPOLI/MADRID - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday said
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi should quit instead of issuing threats,
after he vowed to attack "homes, offices and families" in Europe in
revenge for NATO air-strikes.
In a telephone address relayed to
some 100,000 supporters in Tripoli's Green Square on Friday evening,
Gaddafi urged NATO to halt its bombing campaign or risk seeing Libyan
fighters descend on Europe "like a swarm of locusts or bees".
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forces continued to shell the rebel-held coastal town of Misrata on
Saturday, a NATO official said. Libyan TV reported that NATO bombs had
caused casualties in the central region of al-Jufrah, but have no
Gaddafi, who along with his son and spy chief
faces an international arrest warrant for crimes against humanity, has
vowed to fight to the end and branded the NATO operation a colonial
aggression aimed at securing Libya's oil riches.
"Retreat, you have no chance of beating this brave people," Gaddafi said in his address broadcast on Friday.
"They can attack your homes, your offices and your families, which will
become military targets just as you have transformed our offices,
headquarters, houses and children into what you regards as legitimate
military targets," he said.
"If we choose, we can descend on Europe like a swarm of locusts or bees.
We therefore advise you to retreat before you face catastrophe."
Clinton on Saturday brushed off Gaddafi's remarks and stepped up calls on him to quit.
"Instead of issuing threats, Gaddafi should put the well-being and the
interests of his own people first and he should step down from power and
help facilitate a democratic transition," Clinton told a news
conference during a visit to NATO member Spain.
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, whose country was targeted by
Islamist militants in simultaneous train blasts in 2004 that killed
191, said the alliance stance was unchanged.
"Spain's and the international coalition's response is to maintain the
unity and determination with which we have been working these past
months," she said.
Gaddafi's speech came as Libyan rebels, who had advanced to within 80 km
(50 miles) of the capital were stopped in their tracks by a barrage of
rocket fire from government forces, underlining the dogged resistance of
Gaddafi troops to a five-month revolt.
Coalition military officials refuse to characterize the situation on the
ground as a stalemate after a 104-day bombing campaign that has
strained alliance firepower and tested unity, with internal divisions
over strategy surfacing.
A rebel advance from the Western Mountains to just outside the small
town of Bir al-Ghanam this week had raised prospects of a breakthrough,
but they have been pinned down by Gaddafi forces who on Friday attacked
with Russian-made Grad rockets.
Analysts say part of NATO's strategy is to use the attacks to hinder
efforts by authorities to put down any future uprising in Tripoli.
Britain's defense ministry said Apache helicopters hit three tanks and a
bunker firing position in an attack on an army camp west of Tripoli
late on Friday.
London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that Gaddafi's
representatives had been meeting officials from France and Britain on
the Tunisian island of Djerba.
Citing unnamed sources from the Gaddafi and opposition camps, the
newspaper said Gaddafi was willing to step down if he was spared
prosecution and allowed to live in his hometown of Sirte, northern
Libya, with guarantees for his security.
African Union leaders offered on Friday to host talks on a ceasefire and
transition to democratic government, but left open whether there was
any future role for Gaddafi.
"We understood that the spirit of the document is that Gaddafi will not
have a role to play in the future of Libya," Mansour Sayf al Nasr, the
rebel's representative for France, told reporters at the summit in
Equatorial Guinea. Gaddafi's officials have yet to react publicly to the
A document seen by Reuters at the end of the summit said member states
would not execute the arrest warrant for Gaddafi, leaving open the
possibility that he could go into exile in one of the African Union's 53