Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says anti-government protests will not force him out, and that he expects to die a “martyr” in Libya.
Gadhafi delivered a speech on Libyan state television for more than an hour Tuesday. It was his first detailed address to the country since the wave of protests began.
Describing himself as a “revolutionary,” Mr. Gadhafi urged his supporters to help defend Libya those who are stirring the unrest – people he called “gangs” or “terrorists.”
At one point, Mr. Gadhafi he raised a green book that appeared to be a guide to his political philosophy, a work that he wrote in the 1970s, soon after taking power in the north African nation. Clenching the book in one hand, he threatened the death penalty for anyone who takes up arms against Libya or engages in espionage.
The Libyan leader said he was speaking from a home that was bombed by the United States and Britain, an apparent reference to airstrikes in the 1980s.
At the United Nations in New York, the Security Council is holding a special session Tuesday to discuss the situation in Libya.
Witnesses in Tripoli said Libyan helicopters and warplanes struck civilian areas Monday, while African mercenaries and pro-Gadhafi gunmen opened fire indiscriminately to terrorize the population. Human Rights Watch said Tuesday it has received reports of at least 62 deaths in Tripoli since Sunday, the day the U.S.-based rights group had reported a preliminary death toll of 233 people killed throughout Libya during a crackdown on demonstrations, mostly in the country’s eastern provinces.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday offered its condolences to the victims. White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned Libyan authorities for practicing “appalling violence” against the population.
Mr. Gadhafi is losing the support of key figures in his government, as Libyan officials at home and abroad resign or defect in response to his deadly crackdown on the nationwide protests demanding his ouster. The protests represent the greatest challenge to Mr. Gadhafi’s rule since he took power in 1969.
Libyan diplomats in several countries say they have severed relations with Mr. Gadhafi to protest attacks by his forces on protesters. Libya’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, called on the Libyan leader to step down. Several other Libyan envoys said they resigned, including the ambassadors to India and Indonesia and a senior diplomat in China.
Libya’s embassies in Malaysia and Australia said they no longer represent Mr. Gadhafi. His Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil resigned Monday in protest at the crackdown, while two Libyan fighter pilots flew their jets to Malta, saying they had defected after being ordered to attack demonstrators.
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said Monday at least nine Libyan cities, including Benghazi, Sirte and Misrata, were in the hands of the protesters. The reports could not be independently confirmed because Libya has barred the entry of foreign journalists and cut some communication networks in the country.