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The U.S. Embassy in the capital, Tripoli, advised U.S. nationals against any travel to Benghazi and other eastern cities, including Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk. The embassy is offering free flights out of Libya to the families of embassy staff.

In an address on Libyan state television, Col. Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam — who is being groomed as his father’s successor — denied reports of hundreds of casualties and said there is a foreign-inspired plot to divide the country.

Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him,” said Mr. al-Islam, pledging to “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.”

He also promised a meeting on Monday of the General People’s Congress, Libya’s rubber-stamp parliament.

Libya is not Egypt. Libya is not Tunisia,” Mr. al-Islam said repeatedly, referring to other Arab countries where dictators have recently been overthrown by popular protests. He warned the revolt could lead to “40 years of civil war” and divide the country like Korea.

The senior Obama administration official said the White House was analyzing Mr. al-Islam’s speech “to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform.”

In a diplomatic blow to the regime, the Libyan ambassador to the Arab League resigned to join the protests.

“I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators [in Libya],” Ambassador Abdel Moneim al-Honi told reporters at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

“I am joining the ranks of the revolution,” he said.

Speaking on Al Jazeera Arabic television, another Libyan diplomat, based in China, said that Col. Gadhafi had left the country for Venezuela and that there had been a gunfight involving members of his family. The report could not be confirmed, and U.S. officials declined to comment. The diplomat, who was not identified, resigned live on air during the interview, Al Jazeera said.

However, Col. Gadhafi’s son told Libyan state television that his father is in the country and is backed by the army.

“We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet,” Mr. al-Islam said.

Al Jazeera, whose live, nonstop coverage has played a big role in fanning protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa, also said over the weekend that its satellite transmissions across the region had been jammed.

Libya, which Col. Gadhafi has ruled for more than 40 years, is a major energy producer with significant investment from European and U.S. oil companies. In a phone call to Mr. al-Islam on Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Libya to begin a dialogue with anti-government protesters and implement reforms.

Col. Gadhafi’s fate may hinge on whether the unrest remains confined largely to the eastern Cyrenaica region around Benghazi, where his support has traditionally been weaker than in other parts of the country.

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