(See EXTRA for more on the Libya conflict.)
Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Muammar Qaddafi vowed “martyrdom” or victory a day after Libyan rebels seized control of his Bab Al Aziziya compound in Tripoli.
Qaddafi, 69, called on his supporters to “cleanse” Tripoli of “rats,” al-Arabiya TV reported, citing a recording of comments broadcast early today by a local radio station. Fighting against his loyalists flared elsewhere, rebel officials said, including around the southern city of Sabha, a Qaddafi stronghold and home to a major military base.
“As long as Qaddafi remains in Libya, then there will be no security,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the rebel National Transitional Council, said in a telephone interview yesterday from Benghazi. “He must be finished off, either through death or capture.”
The opposition forces raised their flag over the Bab Al Aziziya compound yesterday after weeks of stalemate in the six- month conflict. Both sides claimed to control the largest share of the capital.
A scud missile fired by pro-Qaddafi forces was intercepted early today above Misrata, the military council in the opposition-controlled coastal city said. A bright orange light lit up the sky over the area at about 1:35 a.m. local time, while two explosions rattled windows across the town.
Mahmoud Jebril, a member of the National Transitional Council, called on Libyans to unite and build a “modern nation” without acting on their own to settle scores.
“After the transition and elections, people who suffered injustices will regain their rights,” he said at a press conference in Doha, Qatar.
Qaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said in a speech broadcast by Arabiya television that the government had carried out preparations “to transform Libya into an open resistance arena till we reach victory.”
Oil fell from the highest close in four days in New York as a downgrade of Japan’s credit rating and forecasts of growing crude stockpiles in the U.S. fanned concern slowing economic growth will reduce demand. Output from Libya, which has the largest proven reserves of any African country, dropped to 100,000 barrels a day in July, down from the 1.6 million barrels pumped before the uprising started.
Crude for October delivery fell as much as 55 cents to $84.89 a barrel and was at $85.02 at 8:51 a.m. London time. Brent oil for October settlement lost 12 cents to $109.19 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
Rebel fighters, some in black-painted jeeps with mounted machine guns, were shown in news broadcasts yesterday entering the broken gates of the Bab Al Aziziya compound, flashing victory signs. A group of fighters tried to tear down a statue of a gold fist holding a jet, which Qaddafi used as backdrop for speeches. Rebels also advanced across a lawn past a destroyed guard house that may have been hit by NATO bombing.
“It feels perfect,” said Marwan Elgajiji, a rebel fighter in Misrata, said as he watched the images on TV from the capital. “Even if they don’t catch him, they have taken his house so Tripoli is with the revolutionaries.”
Nicaragua, which supported Qaddafi as the uprising against him grew, would grant him political asylum if requested, Bayardo Arce, an adviser to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, told reporters in Managua.
Roland Lavoie, a NATO spokesman, said yesterday he would “not risk going into percentages” on how much of Tripoli the Libyan rebels held. The fighting in the capital is “very serious and very dangerous,” he said.
Rebels have encountered resistance in areas around the capital. Opposition fighters were deployed Aug. 22 to areas south of Zliten, 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Tripoli, and missiles have been fired at the coastal town of Misrata, to the east, from Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.
Qaddafi’s forces launched an unguided, short-range missile at the eastern city of Brega two days ago, for the first time during the conflict, Carmen Romero, spokeswoman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which began its air campaign in March, told reporters yesterday in Brussels. Rebels have gained hold of the eastern edge of Brega, NATO said.
Poor security at the port in Tripoli delayed the docking of a rescue ship, leaving thousands of foreigners stranded at their embassies, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said in a statement yesterday.
Planning For Future
Even as the fighting continued, rebel and western leaders looked ahead to a transition of power. U.S. President Barack Obama said Aug. 22 that “the Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.”
Russia won’t recognize the Libyan rebel forces as the nation’s new government as long as fighting continues against Qaddafi loyalists, Mikhail Margelov, Russia’s special envoy to Africa and the Middle East, said today in a telephone interview in Moscow.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged the United Nations Security Council yesterday to pass a resolution allowing countries to release frozen Libyan assets to help finance reconstruction “as soon as possible.”
The U.S. is working to release up to $1.5 billion of frozen Libyan assets, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a briefing in Washington.
Arab foreign ministers, meeting in Doha, yesterday called on the UN Security Council to permit the release of $2.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to be used to meet humanitarian needs before the holiday of Eid al-Fitr in a week, marking the end of the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.
--With assistance from Tamara Walid in Abu Dhabi, Henry Meyer in Moscow, Mark Shenk in New York, Mariam Fam in Cairo, Eddie Buckle in London, Katya Andrusz and Patrick Donahue in Berlin, Flavia Krause-Jackson in Washington, Mohammed Hatem in Sana’a and Eric Sabo in Panama. Editors: Karl Maier, Digby Lidstone
To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com