Qaddafi vows to fight to the death

TRIPOLI: Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi defiantly vowed to fight to the death in an audio recording broadcast Tuesday after NATO military craft unleashed a ferocious series of nearly 30 daytime airstrikes on Tripoli.Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said that the bombardment has killed at least 29 people.NATO-led forces said they will not stop bombing until leader Qaddafi leaves power. US President Barack Obama said it is just a matter of time before Qaddafi is ousted.In a phone call to Libyan state television station, Qaddafi angrily denounced the rebels and NATO and said he would not surrender.“We will not kneel!” he shouted in the phone call that appeared to also take state television by surprise. The sound was hastily adjusted to make it louder.“We will not surrender: we only have one choice — to the end! Death, victory, it does not matter, we are not surrendering!” he shouted.“We are stronger than your weapons, than your planes. The voices of the Libyan people are stronger than the sounds of explosions,” he said, angrily calling the rebels who have risen up against him “bastards.” Minutes after he spoke, another explosion shook the capital as NATO apparently launched another strike.Pro-Qaddafi loyalists also fired a round of celebratory gunfire after his speech, which lasted at least six minutes.The date of the recording could not be confirmed, but his words suggested it was likely made Tuesday in the capital.As he spoke, the sound of low-flying military craft could be heard whooshing through Tripoli again and Qaddafi quickly hung up.Qaddafi has mostly been in hiding since NATO strikes in April targeted one of his homes. Libyan officials said one of his sons, Saif Al-Arab, and three of his grandchildren were killed.

Qaddafi’s last phone call lasted less than a minute and was in mid-May. He was last seen in a brief glimpse of television footage sitting with visiting South African President Jacob Zuma in late May.Libyan television said several structures in the Qaddafi compound were badly damaged in Tuesday’s strikes. Daylight NATO raids have been rare and signal an intensification of the alliance bid to drive Qaddafi from power.There were no immediate reports about casualties.NATO officials have warned for days that they were increasing the scope and intensity of their two-month campaign to oust Qaddafi after more than 40 years in power.The alliance is assisting a four-month old rebel insurgency that has seized swaths of eastern Libya and pockets in the regime’s stronghold in the west.In Washington, President Obama described “significant” progress in the NATO drive to protect Libyan civilians and rebels from attacks by Qaddafi loyalists.

“What you are seeing across the country is an inexorable trend of the regime forces being pushed back, being incapacitated,” Obama said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. “I think it is just a matter of time before Qaddafi goes.”Obama and Merkel steered clear of any public comment on differences over the Western-led air campaign. The United States and other key allies endorsed military action against Libya but Germany confounded its NATO partners by refusing to commit its forces.Obama handed control of the air campaign in Libya to NATO after initial strikes crippled Qaddafi’s air defenses and he has made clear the United States, already entangled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would stick to a limited military role.Obama said Germany’s deployment of additional personnel and resources in the war in Afghanistan had freed up other NATO allies to increase support for the Libya mission.Echoing Obama’s comments, Merkel told reporters: “Qaddafi needs to step down and he will step down. I’m convinced of that because we have made great progress.”

She suggested Germany would find other ways to help.“When we have the talks on this, we agree that Germany … will be showing that it is responsible and committed to the Libyan cause. There will be a lot of problems still to contend with,” Merkel said.NATO aircraft hit the Libyan capital on Tuesday in the most sustained bombardment since Western forces began air strikes in March. A defiant Qaddafi vowed to fight to the end.Qaddafi’s troops and the rebels have been in a stalemate for weeks, neither able to hold territory on a road between Ajdabiyah and the government-held oil town of Brega.Rebels control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and mountains near the border with Tunisia. They have been unable to advance on the capital against Qaddafi’s better-equipped forces, despite NATO air strikes. – Arabnews