Africa

Libya: Gaddafi says he won't be forced from his country

Grab of Col Muammar Gaddafi speaking on Libyan state TV, 30 April 2011
Image caption Muammar Gaddafi said the Libyan government was ready for a ceasefire

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has said that no-one can force him to leave his country.

In a speech on state TV, Col Gaddafi also called for talks with Nato, which has been conducting air strikes under a mandate to protect Libyan citizens.

State media later implied that Nato strikes had targeted Col Gaddafi while he was speaking.

Meanwhile, Libya said it will not allow any more sea deliveries to the besieged western city of Misrata.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim also said rebels in the city would be given four days to lay down their arms in return for an amnesty.

If they continued to fight they would face "total fire" he said.

His comments came after Nato said forces loyal to Col Gaddafi had been trying to lay mines off Misrata.

'Leader targeted'

Appearing on state TV in the early hours of Saturday, Col Gaddafi dismissed any effort to force him into exile.

The US and its allies have reportedly tried to sound out countries which might be willing to offer Col Gaddafi asylum.

"No-one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country," he said.

He added that Libya was ready for a ceasefire, "but a ceasefire cannot be from one side".

"We did not attack them or cross the sea," he said. "Why are they attacking us? Let us negotiate with you, the countries that attack us."

Image caption Rebels have made some gains in Misrata

Nato is enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians in Libya amid a two-month revolt inspired by other uprisings in the Arab world.

Previous Libyan government offers of a ceasfire have not materialised.

Shortly after the speech was broadcast, Libyan state TV reported a bombing near its premises, saying it implied "a target on the leader of the revolution himself".

Misrata, the only significant rebel holding in the west of the country, has been under siege from pro-Gaddafi forces for several weeks.

They have recently retreated from the city centre, but rebels say pro-Gaddafi forces have continued to bombard civilian areas from a distance.

Rebels said several government tanks had tried to re-enter the city on Friday.

The BBC's Ian Pannell reports from the Libyan capital, Tripoli, that despite claims that loyalist forces are now in control of almost all of Misrata, it seems that the government is on the back foot, under pressure from Nato and desperate to reverse recent losses.

'No weapons'

Mr Ibrahim said the government had proved that rebels had received shipments of weapons to Misrata from the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"We will not allow weapons and supplies to come through the sea port to the rebels," he said, suggesting that aid agencies should try to use land routes instead.

Libyan state TV announced: "Any attempt to enter the port will be attacked, regardless of the justifications."

Mr Ibrahim said he knew nothing of any mine-laying reported by Nato.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBrigadier Rob Weighill: Warships stationed in the Mediterranean stopped the mine-laying

Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting in Misrata and many more have been wounded.

The port is a lifeline for rebels and citizens in the city, allowing them to receive supplies of food and medicine, and enabling the evacuation of the wounded and of stranded migrant workers.

Earlier, Nato's director of operations in Libya, Brig Rob Weighill, said the alliance had intercepted pro-Gaddafi forces trying to lay mines about 2-3km out from Misrata's port.

He said the mining showed Col Gaddafi's "complete disregard for international law and his willingness to attack humanitarian delivery efforts".

Crews were disposing of the mines, he added.

Tunisian protest

Brig Weighill added that rebels in Misrata had made advances in recent days.

"The rebels have expanded their perimeter significantly over the past week. To suggest they are winning would be overly optimistic," he said. "They are putting up a very spirited fight."

In the past week fighting has escalated on Libya's western border, spilling over into Tunisia.

The border post of Zintan has changed hands repeatedly, and Libyan military vehicles were seen in the town of Dahiba on the Tunisian side of the border on Friday.

Tunisia has condemned the incursion of forces from Libya and summoned the Tunisian ambassador to express its "most vigorous protests".

Thousands of people have fled across Libya's borders to escape the violence of recent weeks.

Mr Ibrahim, the government spokesman, blamed rebels for unrest at the border crossing, and said Libya would respect Tunisian sovereignty.

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