'Libyans will take up arms against the West if attacked'

Gaddafi says Western powers want to control Libyan oil; official lands in Egypt with message from Gaddafi; tanks close in on rebel stronghold city Zawiyah; Pentagon says US is considering military options on Libya.

March 9, 2011 13:37
3 minute read.

Gaddafi 311 reuters. (photo credit: reuters)


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The Libyan people will take up arms against Western powers if they seek to enforce a no-fly zone in their country's airspace, Muammar Gaddafi said in an interview with Turkish state-run television.

"If they take such a decision it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil," Gaddafi said in the interview by broadcast by TRT news channel on Wednesday.

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"Then the Libyan people will take up arms against them," Gaddafi said. The interview was conducted in Arabic and aired with Turkish subtitles.

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A Libyan plane carrying the head of the Libyan Authority for Supply and Logistics and who is carrying a message from Gaddafi landed in Cairo airport, Egyptian airport officials said on Wednesday.

Major-General Abdel Rahman Ben Ali al-Sayyid al-Zawy, was on board the plane that came from Tripoli, one official said.

Airport officials, citing a Libyan diplomat who met the general, told Reuters that he was carrying a message from Gaddafi to the military council running Egypt. No one at Egypt's military council was immediately available to comment.

Heavy fighting has forced a shutdown of one of Libya's biggest refineries in the flashpoint town of Zawiyah 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, a refinery official said on Wednesday.

"Heavy weapons have been fired nearby and we can't run the refinery under these conditions," the official told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the tanks of pro-Gaddafi forces were closing in on the rebel-held main square of the  Zawiyah, a rebel fighter said.

The fighter, named Ibrahim, said forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were in control of the main road and the suburbs of Zawiyah.

Rebel forces still controlled the square and the enemy was about 1,500 metres (yards) away, he said.

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Ibrahim said there were army snipers on top of most of the buildings, shooting whoever dared to leave their homes.

He said half the city was destroyed by air attacks.

"There are many dead people and they can't even bury them. Zawiyah is deserted. There's nobody on the streets. No animals, not even birds in the sky," he said.

Rebels had killed a high-ranking cousin of Gaddafi in fighting earlier in the week, and "that's why he bombed the city. They wanted to retrieve the body and they did," Ibrahim said.

He said about 60 rebel fighters had gone to attack an army base on Tuesday about 20 kms (12 miles) from Zawiyah.

"None of them has returned and we don't know if they're dead or alive. We haven't heard from them," he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon said the US is still looking at a full range of military options on Libya, a day before NATO defense ministers gather for a meeting likely to expand on Western nations' deliberations about a no-fly zone.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who concluded a visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday, was expected to discuss Libya with counterparts from other NATO nations during the regular ministerial meeting beginning on Thursday.

"We are preparing, as we've made clear for days and days now, a range of military options for the president, including a no-fly zone and each of those options will also spell out the potential consequences of each course of action," Morrell said.

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