Libya: Show of support for Gaddafi in Sirte
Sirte is Col Muammar Gaddafi's hometown. It's also his heartland. For this reason, the Libyan government invited us to have a look.
It wanted to show us that - in this part of the country at least - the leader still has plenty of support.
The six-hour drive from Tripoli to Sirte was a chance to see what life is like in the parts of Libya which are controlled by the government. Official guides (or minders) drove us in a minibus - firstly along the coastal road, then south into the desert in order to avoid the rebel-held city of Misrata.
Our drive took us past watermelon stands and herds of camels. We passed more than a dozen makeshift military checkpoints along the way - sometimes little more than a couple of soldiers guarding a few bricks laid across the road.
None of the soldiers we came across looked particularly anxious. We saw no sign of any rebels.
The ease of the journey was noticeable. There was no sense of siege.Green brigade
In fact, it was often hard to tell that this is a country at war. The only obvious reminders were the long queues for petrol in Tripoli.
One line next to the main coastal road stretched for about a kilometre. Many of the cars were empty - suggesting that the drivers believed that the wait for petrol would be extremely long.
End Quote Hamed Abel Asha Pro-Gaddafi demonstrator
I'm here to support Gaddafi because Nato just wants the oil”
We arrived in Sirte in time for an early evening rally in support of Col Gaddafi. Several thousand people gathered in the centre of the city. Many wore green baseball caps or waved green flags (green is the colour of those who support the colonel).
One young boy sat on the curb and diligently coloured his right forearm with a green felt-tip pen.
"Write the truth now," one man told us. "Hundreds of thousands of people," he said, pointing towards the crowd.
Many demonstrators carried pictures of Col Gaddafi. Behind the stage, there was a picture of a young man who had been killed in the past few months of conflict.
"He is a martyr," another man told me approvingly.'Judgement Day'
The rally included an audio message from the leader himself.
"There will be no talks between me and them [the rebels] until Judgement Day," Col Gaddafi's voice told the crowd, to cheers.
"I'm here to support Gaddafi because Nato just wants the oil," said Hamed Abel Asha. "This war is only for changing the government to get the oil."
"I'm very happy for this President Muammar Gaddafi - I love Africa," said Ismail Abdullah. "Muammar Gaddafi is very good for everybody black in Africa."
The demonstration ended with celebratory gunfire and fireworks.
It was a chance for some of the colonel's younger supporters to try out their still-developing shooting skills.
One teenager standing beneath a block of flats fired a volley of shots from an AK47 into the air. He was immediately accosted by a man who was annoyed that the shots had been fired so close to his children.
The teenager took a few steps down the street, fired off another shot, realised that he had run out of ammunition, and walked away.