Tripoli (ANN) Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has refused to stand down amid widespread anti-government protests which he said had tarnished the image of the country.In his first major speech since unrest began last week, Col Gaddafi saidthe whole world looked up to Libya and that protests were “serving the devil”.
Reading from the country’s constitution, he said enemies of Libya would be executed.
Rights groups say nearly 300 have been killed in the violence so far.
A defiant and angry Col Gaddafi said that he had brought glory to Libya. As he had no official position in Libya from which to resign, he would remain the head of the revolution, he said.
He blamed the unrest on “cowards and traitors” who were seeking to portray Libya as a place of chaos and to “humiliate” Libyans. At other points he referred to them as cockroaches or “rats and mercenaries”.
State TV had said Col Gaddafi was going to announce “major reforms” in his speech, but the only such reference was to some devolution of power to local authorities.
Civil war threat
The protesters had been given drink and drugs, he said, frequently shouting and banging his fist on the table as the address continued.
He called on “those who love Muammar Gaddafi” to come on to the streets in support of him, telling them not to be afraid of the “gangs”.
“Come out of your homes, attack them in their dens. Withdraw your children from the streets. They are drugging your children, they are making your children drunk and sending them to hell,” he said.
He urged young people to form committees “for the defence of the revolution and the defence of Gaddafi”. He said they would “cleanse Libya house by house”.
“If matters require, we will use force, according to international law and the Libyan constitution,” he said, and warned that the country could descend into civil war or be occupied by the US if protests continued.
Anyone who played games with the country’s unity would be executed, he said, referring to the Chinese authorities’ crushing of the student protests in Tiananmen Square among other historical events.
He also railed against western countries, in particular the United States and Britain, which he accused of trying to destabilise Libya.
It was unclear whether the speech, which lasted about an hour, was live or had been pre-recorded.
But it was apparently filmed at his Bab al-Azizia barracks in Tripoli, which still shows damage from a US bombing in 1986. The cameras occasionally cut away to an image of a giant fist crushing a US war plane.
The BBC’s Frank Gardner said that even by Col Gaddafi’s usual standards it was an extraordinary speech, full of theatrical defiance against almost everyone.
He appears completely divorced from reality, says our correspondent, saying that he had not authorised the army to use force, despite opposition statements that more than 500 people have been killed and more than 1,000 are missing.
The Libyan authorities have reacted fiercely to the outbreak of protests in the country, which have come amid anti-government unrest in many other countries in the region.
Foreign journalists work under tight restriction in Libya, and much of the information coming from the country is impossible to verify.
But witnesses say foreign mercenaries have been attacking civilians in the streets and that fighter planes have been shooting down protesters.
Tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to leave the country and many oil companies are attempting to remove their expatriate staff.
A BBC correspondent in Tripoli says there is a heavy police presence in the capital but that, the second city, Benghazi – where there has been intensive fighting – is now in opposition control and there is no sign of security forces.
Many Libyan diplomats, including the country’s ambassador to the US, have turned their backs on Col Gaddafi and are urging the international community to take action.
The UN Security Council and Arab League have both called emergency meetings over the crisis. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is “outraged” by the violence
Human Rights Watch said at least 62 bodies had been taken to hospital morgues since Sunday, in addition to the 233 people it said had been killed outside the capital previously.
The violence has helped to push up oil prices to their highest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008.