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People love me, says Gaddafi as Arab world simmers

Tuesday March 01, 2011 07:45:17 PM, IANS

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Tripoli/Sana'a/Tunis: His people loved him and would die to protect him, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi declared as his forces fought pitched battles with protesters and the US froze at least $30 billion of his government's assets while Britain said Tuesday that military intervention was not ruled out.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, swept by waves of people protests, fresh demonstrations took place in Yemen while a minister has quit in Tunisia where the first of the uprisings began in December.

Tuesday was a tense day for Libya which has been on the boil since Feb 14. Over two weeks of bloodshed has left an estimated 1,000 people dead and forced over 100,000 people to flee.

However, its seemingly unworried leader of 41 years told the Western media that he was loved by all.

In an interview to the BBC, the 68-year-old Gaddafi said: "No-one is against us. Against us for what? Because I'm not a president. They love me. All my people are with me, they love me all. They will die to protect me, my people."

Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, called Gaddafi "delusional", adding that "when he (Gaddafi) can laugh when talking to American and international journalists while he is slaughtering his own people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality".

When asked about the growing international pressure on him to quit, Gaddafi retorted: "...if they want me to step down, what do I step down from? I'm not a monarch or a king."

"No demonstration at all in the streets. Did you see demonstrations?"

On Monday, anti-government protesters gained control of four Libyan cities and formed a council to begin the transition of power.

The areas reported to be under control of anti-government forces include Al Zawiya, Misurata, Benghazi and Al Baida.

A worried West has begun to increase pressure on Gaddafi as a humanitarian crisis looms large over the oil-rich north African country.

The US has frozen at least $30 billion in Libyan government assets as part of efforts to loosen Gaddafi's grip on power.

The $30 billion is the largest amount ever blocked under any sanctions programme, David Cohen, Treasury Department's acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said announcing the freeze Monday.

President Barack Obama met Monday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss a variety of measures under consideration. Ban later told reporters that "further action may well be necessary".

DPA reported that Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has refused to rule out the use of military force against Libya, if the Gaddafi regime continues its bloody suppression.

Cameron was speaking after Gaddafi's statements to the media.

The British prime minister told parliament: "We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets. We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people."

In Yemen, thousands of anti-government protesters Tuesday gathered outside the Sana'a University to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Thousands of government loyalists have also gathered in the city's Tahrir Square in a counter-demonstration, CNN reported.

In Tunisia, which was the first success of the mass movement that has rapidly spread in countries in North Africa and the Middle East, the industry and technology minister quit government, state TAP news agency reported.

Minister Mohamed Afif Chelbi resigned from the government Monday. On Sunday, ousted Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi quit as continuing protests demanded a change in government, AKI reported.

In Oman, rights group Amnesty International called on authorities not to use excessive force against the anti-government protesters.

The call comes after two people were reportedly killed when police fired rubber bullets and teargas at the protesters over the weekend, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.

"We urge the government to order an immediate independent investigation to determine whether the force used by the police was excessive, as it appears was the case, and to ensure accountability," said an Amnesty official.





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