Sunday, February 20, 2011

Libyan uprising a 'foreign plot': Kadhafi son

– Sun Feb 20, 7:18 pm ET

CAIRO (AFP) – Saif al-Islam Kadhafi, the son of strongman Moamer Kadhafi, said Monday that Libya was on the verge of civil war and branded the unprecedented protests against his father's rule a foreign plot.

Blaming Arab and African expatriates of fomenting unrest in the country, he said the violence was aimed at installing Islamist rule, in a speech on television.

"At this moment there are tanks being driven by civilians in Benghazi," Libya's second city and an epicentre of the unprecedented protests against Moamer Kadhafi's iron-fisted rule for nearly 42 years.

"We have arms, the military has arms and the forces which want to destroy Libya have arms," he said.

Kadhafi, speaking in Arabic, also pledged a new constitution and new liberal laws saying the north African country was at a crossroads.

In the tough-talking, finger-wagging speech, Kadhafi's son blamed foreign media of inflating the death toll, which he repeatedly put at 84, and warned that any uprising would be ruthlessly suppressed.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 173 people have died in Libya since the anti-regime protests broke out on February 15 after similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which ended the long rule of two veteran leaders.

"Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia. There are no political parties in Libya," he said.

"We will take up arms... we will fight to the last bullet," he said. "We will destroy seditious elements.

"If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other."

Kadhafi said his father would lead the fight against the protesters, adding: and "we will win."

Tripoli residents late Sunday reported intense gunfire in the heart of the capital and several quarters of the city.

"We are hearing bursts of gunfire everywhere and they are approaching the city centre," a resident of the Al-Andalous quarter told AFP.

Another resident reported gunfire in the Mizran area, near downtown Tripoli.

A local of the working-class Gurgi area said security forces fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters.

"There are demonstrations. We are hearing anti-regime slogans and firing. Our house is filled with tear gas," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Saif al-Islam Kadhafi also underscored Libya's vast oil wealth and issued a trenchant warning to foreign companies.

"We have one resource that we live on and that is petrol," he said in an English translation of his speech.

"All the foreign companies will be forced to leave the country," he said.

"Separation in Libya will take it back to where it was 60 or 70 years ago."

Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told EU ambassadors in Tripoli, without elaborating, that there are "very precise plans, destructive and terrorist, that want Libya to become a base for terrorism."

And he said Libya has the "right to take all measures to preserve its unity, stability and people, and to assure the protection of its riches and preserve its relations with other countries," state news agency Jana reported.

Mahmudi also lashed out at "foreign news media," whose reports he said were a "mixture, without distinction, of reality and lies."

But in a significant crack in the regime's public face, Libya's envoy to the Arab League announced he was "joining the revolution."

"I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators (in Libya) and I am joining the ranks of the revolution," Abdel Moneim al-Honi said.

Ironically, Libya currently holds the rotating presidency of the 22-member Arab League.

Earlier, witnesses told AFP by telephone that security forces clashed with anti-regime protesters in the Mediterranean city of Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Tripoli.

The witnesses said security forces, backed by "African mercenaries," fired on crowds "without discrimination."

In the eastern city of Benghazi, which has borne the brunt of the violence, protests continued, lawyer Mohammed al-Mughrabi told AFP by telephone.

"Lawyers are demonstrating outside the Northern Benghazi court; there are thousands here. We have called it Tahrir Square Two," he said of the Cairo square central to protests that brought down Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Separately, others are "storming the garrison" and "taking fire from snipers," Mughrabi said, without elaborating.

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