Moammar Gadhafi Says He Won't Leave, Blames Uprising on Foreigners

Libya's leader makes it clear he's not going anywhere.

February 22, 2011, 2:00 AM

Feb. 22, 2011— -- A defiant Col. Moammar Gadhafi declared today that he won't quit until he dies and blamed the Libyan uprising on foreigners and "rats" of international governments.

"I will not leave the country. I will die as a martyr in the end," Gadhafi, who has ruled for 42 years, said in a taped speech televised on state television. He warned of a civil war if protesters don't back down.

An angry and rambling Gadhafi said he was broadcasting from houses bombed by the United States and the United Kingdom. As for the protesters, he blamed the uprising on "rats" and agents of foreign governments and blamed Tunisia for manipulating the youth.

"A small group of young men that are using hallucinating 'pills' and drugs attacking police station like rats. They took advantage of Libya's calmness and attacked police stations," he said. "They are young men who got paid money and drugs. Those were the ones killed by the police. They are encouraged by external forces."

Reading from what appeared to be the Libyan constitution, Gadhafi vowed fierce punishment for dissenters.

"If we have to use force we will use it, according to international law and according to Libyan constitution," he said. "I will fight until the last drop of my blood with all the Libyan people behind me."

The embattled dictator, swaddled in brown clothes and speaking often in a passionate but erratic style, took to the television for the second time since the uprising began in the eastern part of the country this weekend.

In Tripoli, residents described a scene of chaos where foreign mercenaries trained by Gadhafi attacked not just protesters, but even residents.

Gadhafi is lashing back with force and brutality on a scale not yet seen in the revolutions that have been sweeping across the Arab world. Warplanes swooped over the country's capital reportedly bombing protesters, as foreign mercenaries -- a group that Gadhafi has recruited, trained and paid over the years -- indiscriminately fired at unarmed protesters.

"There's been constant gunfire for the past hour. Right outside our house," he told ABC News. "I saw them with my own eyes -- the AK 47s and the shootings. ... They're massacring. They're punishing the people. That's what's happening. And it's going to get worse because if you watched his speech, he said he's going to use force brutally and he's true to his word when it comes to that."

Tunisian radio interviewed a man who said helicopters were shooting randomly at people on the street and that people in cars are shooting from the windows as they drive by.

Tunisian radio also reported that in the wake of Gadhafi's inflammatory speech this afternoon, foreign nationals were attempting to head from Tripoli to Tunisia overland, and that they do not feel safe waiting at the airport in Tripoli.

Libya Protesters Face Brutal Crackdown

Libya's ambassador to the United States earlier today appealed to the international community to intervene. Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali said on "Good Morning America" said Gadhafi's supporters are using tanks and gunfire to kill not just protesters but also the capital's residents, adding that he's seen images of "people cut in half, just like they're being killed by bulldozers."

"Tripoli is burning," he said. "Please please help the Libyan people. Help them. They are burning. They are being killed in their streets, their houses."

Aujali has resigned from serving the government, but not his ambassador's post.

The eastern half of the country -- including Benghazi, where the uprising began -- is under the control of people who are being aided by parts of the military, residents told ABC News. But Gadhafi denied that.

Gadhafi made his first appearance on state TV after midnight Tuesday local time to say he's not planning to go anywhere despite protests against his regime.

"I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela," he said, mocking reports he had fled to Venezuela. "Don't believe those misleading dog stations."

However, there is evidence that the anti-government uprising is loosening Gadhafi's iron grip as Libyan tribal leaders are siding with the opposition and senior Libyan diplomats.

Most recently, the country's interior minister, General Abdul Fatah Younis, resigned from his job and announced he is joining the people's revolution. This came a day after two Libyan air force pilots landed their planes in nearby Malta and asked for asylum after refusing commands to bomb protesters in Benghazi.

"We have never been with Gadhafi. We are with the people," Libyan Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Ibrahim Dabbashi told ABC News. It's "time for him to be prosecuted."

Libyan diplomat in China, Hussein el-Sadek el-Mesrati, protesting outside the embassy, angrily dubbed Gadhafi a "Hitler."

The Libyan military is relatively large in size. It has 76,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and hundreds of different aircrafts, but the armed forces are overall weak and fragmented. Experts say Gadhafi purposely kept it that way amid fear that his military could turn on him.

Protests Spread Across Middle East and North Africa: View ABC's Interactive Map.

But the 42-year regime of the colorful dictator is now under the worst assault it has ever faced. In an oil-rich country where people have lived in fear for so long, they are now suddenly taking to the streets and demanding that Gadhafi leave and there are no signs of the dissent abating.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the violence in Tunisia for the first time on camera today.

The U.S. "continues to watch the situation in Libya with alarm," she said. "This bloodshed is completely unacceptable."

Italy's Berlusconi Calls Gadhafi

With borders closed and TV and Internet jammed, it is impossible to get an accurate picture of what is happening in Libya but there are clear signs that this uprising is turning out to be far more bloody than that in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. A conservative tally puts the death toll at around 300 from the crackdown.

"What's particularly worrying is the Libyan government seems to be deliberately using live ammunition, in some cases heavy weapons, to attack protesters and we've got reports from the hospital in Benghazi suggesting that many of those who have been killed display wounds four centimeters in diameter, which again suggests high velocity weapons," said Tom Porteous, spokesman for Human Rights Watch. "This is a very serious development and we're afraid that a human rights catastrophe is actually unfolding as I speak."

The growing violence prompted Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi to call Gadhafi, but no details of the call were released.

Berlusconi has called Gadhafi his "friend" and Italy relies on Libya for much of its oil. On Monday Berlusconi rebuffed calls for him to try to restrain Gadhafi, saying he didn't want to call the Libyan leader because Gadhafi was busy.

The United Nations will hold a meeting to discuss the situation in Libya. At least two human rights groups have called on the U.N. and President Obama to revoke Libya's membership from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described the violence against civilians "unacceptable," and as a "serious violation of international law" and said Monday he told stop Gadhafi to stop using military planes and helicopters against the demonstrators.

The U.S. State Department on Monday ordered non-essential employees and their relatives out of Libya. There about 35 U.S. Embassy employees and family members in Libya now and approximately 200 "unofficial American citizens" who have contacted the embassy in Tripoli for assistance. Other countries such as Italy and Portugal are sending either ships or aircraft to evacuate their citizens.

After almost 42 years, Gadhafi is the longest-serving leader in Africa and the Arab world.

Gadhafi seized control of the country in a coup in 1969 when he was just 27-years-old. He became an advocate of Arab and African unity, and has openly declared his vision for a "United States of Africa."

In U.S. diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks, Gadhafi is described as a "mercurial and eccentric figure who suffers from severe phobias, enjoys flamenco dancing and horseracing, acts on whims and irritates friends and enemies alike."

Among his other eccentric behaviors, the Libyan leader reportedly fears flying over water, doesn't like staying on upper floors, travels with a slew of female bodyguards and reportedly will not travel without a curvaceous Ukrainian nurse.

President Ronald Reagan once called him, "this mad dog of the Middle East."

He famously earned the ire of Donald Trump when he decided to erect a tent in the New York suburb of Bedford in 2009, when he visited the United States to attend a U.N. meeting. Once inside the U.N., he controversially blamed the swine flu virus on an unnamed foreign military, complained about having jet lag and even called Obama "my son," a reference that made many attendees laugh.

The longtime dictator has also clashed often with Western governments. He was accused of backing the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco popular with American soldiers and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

For years, Gadhafi refused to take responsibility for the bombing, but that changed in 2003 when he acknowledged his role and tried to make amends.

Experts say Gadhafi's unpredictable nature is one of the keys to his political longevity.

"Whereas other governments are sometimes unpredictable, the Libyan government is strategically unpredictable," said Jon Alterman director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies.

ABC News' Susan Shin, Tom Nagorski, John Berman, Phoebe Natanson and Elicia Dover contributed to this report.

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