Col Gaddafi stands defiant, vows to remain in the country ‘dead or alive’ and calls on supporters to defy the Alliance and gather at his compound.
BRUSSELS – NATO defence ministers were meeting in Brussels to review the results of two months of air strikes in Libya, as the alliance stepped up its campaign, according to BBC News. More explosions were heard overnight in the capital, Tripoli, after a day of intensified bombardment on Tuesday.
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to remain in the country “dead or alive”, saying martyrdom would be a “million times better” than surrender. He urged supporters to defy NATO and gather at his Tripoli compound.
Meanwhile, China and Russia are involved in separate diplomatic efforts to try to end the conflict. Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi has been visiting Beijing, and a Russian envoy is in eastern Libya’s rebel stronghold of Benghazi to meet opposition leaders.
Last week, NATO agreed to extend its air operations over Libya for a further 90 days, as it increased the scope and intensity of its UN-mandated campaign to protect civilians. Since then, British and French attack helicopters have gone into action and command centres in Tripoli have been pounded. On Tuesday NATO carried out its heaviest daytime raids of its nine-week campaign on what it said were command and control centres in and around the capital, with more than 20 air strikes by low-flying jets.
In an audio address on Libyan state TV late on Tuesday, the Libyan leader called on his supporters to rally at Bab al-Aziziya, pledging that the Libyan people would soon defeat their enemies. “The Libyan people will march, in the direction of the east or the west, or to any place where there are armed gangs to strip them of their arms without fighting,” he said. Addressing NATO, he added: “Your planes will not be able to stop these marches of the millions, nor will the armed gangs that you support be able to resist for even a minute in the face of these marches”.
Obama, Merkel pledge to cooperate on Libya, economy
For two allies passing through rocky times, the leaders of the United States and Germany on Tuesday put on a show of unity at the White House, demanding that Gaddafi relinquish power and pledging to cooperate on issues as diverse as the war in Afghanistan and the global economy, according to LA Times. President Obama welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington and used the occasion to reiterate his determination to see Gaddafi ousted. On the issue of the troubled global economy, Obama and Merkel have diverged over whether spending or spending cuts would be the best route back to prosperity. And Obama warned against allowing the debt crisis threatening countries such as Greece, Italy and Portugal to worsen. “I am confident that Germany’s leadership, along with other key actors in Europe, will help us arrive at a path for Greece to return to growth, for this debt to become more manageable,” Obama said.