By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has made a brief appearance on Libyan state-run television amid mass protests that have shaken his more than 40-year rule in the north African country.
In the appearance, which lasted less than 30 seconds, Qaddafi said he remains in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and has not fled to Venezuela, as some reports February 21 had suggested.
“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela,” Qaddafi said in the television event. “Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs. I wanted to say something to the youths at the Green Square [in Tripoli] and stay up late with them, but it started raining. Thank God, it’s a good thing.”
In the appearance — Qaddafi’s first televised appearance since protests to topple him started last week — the veteran ruler was holding an umbrella in the rain and leaning out of a vehicle.
The television appearance came amid reports of continuing deadly violence in a crackdown by Libyan security forces on anti-Qaddafi protesters that may have left hundreds of people dead.
Libya’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, has joined some members of the government who have called on Qaddafi to step down.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN Security Council would meet February 22 to discuss the Libyan crisis.
Ban said he had spoken to Qaddafi by telephone and urged him to halt violence against peaceful demonstrators.
The UN chief had earlier said he was “outraged” over reports that Libyan security forces had fired on demonstrators from war planes and helicopters. He said such attacks against civilians, if confirmed, would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Qaddafi to immediately halt the bloodshed in Libya, calling the violence “unacceptable.”
Clinton’s February 21 statement said the “world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm,” and said the United States joins the international community in “strongly condemning the violence.”
Her statement added that Qaddafi’s government still has what it described as the “responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly.”