Muammar Gaddafi warned Wednesday that an intervention by the US in Libya would trigger a bloody war.
“Do they want us to become slaves once again like we were slaves to the Italians?” Reuters quoted the colonel as saying in a televised speech, referring to Libya’s former colonial power. “There is a conspiracy to control Libyan oil and to control Libyan land, to colonize Libya once again.
“We will never accept it. We will enter a bloody war, and thousands and thousands of Libyans will die if the US enters or NATO enters.”
Gaddafi’s words came a day after the US dispatched two warships, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce, and 400 Marines to the Mediterranean Sea near Libya.
The colonel has blamed “small, sleeper Al Qaeda cells” for provoking the recent unrest and has vowed to fight on, once again claiming his people are willing to die for him.
Sue Onslow, head of the Africa International Affairs Program at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told the Global Times that international pressure on Gaddafi does not appear to be working.
“He has been there before, after all, and has in the past presented himself as a courageous and independent leader who defied ‘imperialist’ Western criticism,” she said.
“However, the combination of domestic and international pressure on his network of advisers and supporters may produce a tipping point for the Libyan leader’s determination,” Onslow added.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Wednesday that the warships were deployed to help with humanitarian relief and evacuations, and he downplayed the possibility of a NATO intervention.
Meanwhile, NATO members continued their debate over implementing a no-fly zone over Libya to stop Gaddafi’s forces from bombing rebellions.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague had earlier claimed that London might go it alone and impose a no-fly zone over Libya without UN approval, Sky News reported Wednesday.
However, military brass argued that a no-fly zone would require the destruction of Gaddafi’s radar and missile defenses, which is a military intervention in itself.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe raised concerns about how any operation would be viewed in the Arab world, which is trembling in the recent wave of anti-government protests. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the idea of a no-fly zone as “superfluous,” and said world powers must focus on fully using UN sanctions, the Telegraph reported Wednesday.
Hesham Youssef, the chief of staff for Arab League chief Amr Moussa, told AFP earlier Wednesday that the bloc was to issue a resolution during an annual summit, stressing the Arabs’ rejection of any foreign military intervention in Libya.
However, officials said the summit had been delayed until the end of May due to the situation in the region. “There are international precedents for a no-fly zone, but Gates’ words show a keen realization that what is happening in Libya has to be a Libyan revolution,” Onslow said. “It will be a Libyan affair, as it should be. Any form of foreign interference would be counter-productive.” She added that the “ownership” of this revolution by Libyan opposition will be critical for its future legitimacy.
Li Weijian, director of the Research Center of West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, echoed Onslow’s remarks. “The fate of Libya should be in the hands of its people, and the Arabic world would not like Libya to be a pro-American state,” Li said.
Earlier Wednesday, Libyan opposition members claimed that they had successfully repelled attacks from Gaddafi’s loyalists and regained control of al-Brega in the eastern part of the country. At least 10 people were killed in the skirmish, AFP reported.
Al Jazeera said Gaddafi’s troops had regained control of two strategic towns in the country’s northwest, even as opposition fighters in the east prepare to march on the capital, Tripoli.
The Libyan Human Rights League told AFP Wednesday that at least 6,000 people have died since the start of the revolt.
A senior US official told The Wall Street Journal on condition of anonymity that, with the rebellion spreading, an assassination attempt on Gaddafi “seems more plausible.” “The best outcome for those Libyan leaders who are defecting will be (to put) two bullets into the heads of Gaddafi and his son,” the official said.
Liu Linlin and Sun Wei contributed to this story