Defiant Gathafi: we will beat them
TRIPOLI - An embattled Moamer Gathafi said he would throw open the country's arsenals to his supporters in a rabble rousing speech Friday that presaged a bloody battle for the Libyan capital.
In a brief but chilling address in Tripoli's Green Square, Gathafi told hundreds of cheering supporters from the top of a building to prepare themselves for a fight.
If necessary, he said, weapons stores would be opened to arm them for combat.
Gathafi loyalists had earlier killed several people in shooting that spread through the capital and French President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first world leader to openly demand the Libyan leader's ouster.
Gathafi called on his partisans to "defend Libya". "If needs be, we will open all the arsenals."
"We will fight them and we will beat them," he said as frenzied supporters raised portraits of the leader and waved the country's green flag.
Almost the entire east of the oil-rich north African country has slipped from Gathafi's control since a popular uprising began with protests in the port city of Benghazi on February 15.
Hundreds of people have been killed in a brutal crackdown and tens of thousands of foreigners are scrambling to leave the country.
Images on state television showed the 68-year-old leader repeatedly raising his arms and shaking his fists during the brief appearance while shouting that the Libyan people "love Gathafi."
"Life without dignity has no value, life without green flags has no value," Gathafi told them. "Sing, dance and prepare yourselves."
Some of the crowd chanted "God, Moamer, Libya and that's all."
This was Gathafi's third statement this week. He previously called on his followers to crush the insurrection and later said Al-Qaeda was behind what he called "drug crazed mobs" of youth trying to unseat him.
In Ankara, meanwhile, Sarkozy said "Mr Gathafi must go," becoming the first world leader to demand the ouster of the 68-year-old former army colonel who seized power in a 1969 coup.
"The systematic violence against the Libyan people is unacceptable and will be the subject of investigations and sanctions," he added at a news conference in Ankara with Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.
Meanwhile, outraged Western governments scrambled to craft a collective response to the bloody crackdown in the oil-rich North African state.
In a first step, the European Union agreed to slap an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on Libya, an EU diplomat said. However, they will not be enforced for several days because the accord needs to be drafted legally.
And Western nations have drawn up a draft UN Security Council resolution that would impose similar sanctions worldwide, diplomats said in New York, adding that a vote could come as early as this weekend.
Until now, governments have been constrained by fears of reprisals against their people still stranded amid what escaping expatriates described as hellish scenes as evacuation efforts dragged on into the 11th day.
In Tripoli, security forces opened fire indiscriminately on worshippers leaving prayers, desperate to prevent any new protests on the weekly Muslim day of rest, residents told AFP by telephone.
Two people were killed in the Fashlum neighbourhood and several more in Sug al-Jomaa, witnesses said.
Both are eastern suburbs where security forces had opened fire on previous days, but sustained gunfire was also reported in the western district of Ghut Ashaal.
With police and troops deployed in force outside their mosques, prayer leaders followed texts for their sermons that had been imposed by the authorities calling for an end to "sedition," worshippers said.
In Libya's third city Misrata, 150 kilometres (100 miles) east of the capital, residents were expected to turn out in force for the funerals of 30 people killed as they helped evict regime loyalists, a resident said.
With some 500 loyal troops of the Hamza Brigade still holed up at a nearby air base, volunteers were helping to fortify the city with containers and sandbags, the resident told AFP by telephone.
The second city Benghazi, where the unprecedented protests against Gathafi's four-decade rule first erupted, remained firmly in the hands of rebels, an AFP correspondent said.
But the initial euphoria of the eastern city's liberation was giving way to fear that its weak defences could be vulnerable to a counter-attack.
At the barracks of the Al-Saiqa (Thunderbolt) special forces unit, an officer who gave his name as Colonel Said said: "For now, we are readying ourselves here. We are expecting an attack on Benghazi at any moment."
In the city's courthouse square where the demonstrations started, the faithful gathered for their first Friday prayers free of Gathafi's rule.
Already depleted, Gathafi's regime faced fresh defections, including that of his cousin and close aide Kadhaf al-Dam, who quit "all his official functions," Egyptian state media reported.
Libya's ambassadors to France and to the UN cultural organisation UNESCO also resigned, the latest in a string of foreign envoys to announce they were "joining the revolution."
The Paris embassy had already been seized by protesters calling themselves the "children of the revolution."
Gathafi meanwhile sought to shore up dwindling support by deploying the country's oil wealth. State television said Libyan families would be eligible to receive $400 (290 euros) each and that some public sector workers could get pay rises of as much as 150 percent.
Leading an international outcry over the regime's brutal crackdown, US President Barack Obama consulted the leaders of Britain, France and Italy on how to "immediately" respond.
Britain and France both called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and for members of the Libyan regime to face prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council met in special session to consider calls to expel Libya over a crackdown that High Commissioner Navi Pillay said was "escalating alarmingly".
Western governments faced mounting domestic criticism for their failure to organise evacuations more speedily as oil workers stranded in remote desert camps spoke of their supplies being looted amid growing lawlessness.
Italy is preparing a "military operation" to rescue some nationals trapped in the southeast whose food has run out, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russia said.
Crude prices rose again as markets continued to fret about the turmoil in the Middle East despite a promise from the OPEC oil cartel to make up for any loss of production in Libya.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April rose 76 cents to $112.12 per barrel, having rocketed the previous day to $119.79 -- the highest level since August 22, 2008 -- before sliding lower as many traders took profits.