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Tripoli, home to about a third of Libya’s population of 6 million, is the center of the eroding territory that Col. Gadhafi still controls.

Even in the Gadhafi-held pocket of northwestern Libya around Tripoli, several cities have also fallen to the rebellion. Militiamen and pro-Gadhafi troops were repelled when they launched attacks trying to take back opposition-held territory in Zawiya and Misrata in fighting that killed at least 30 people.

Col. Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, told foreign journalists invited by the government to Tripoli that there were no casualties in Tripoli and that the capital was “calm.”

“Everything is peaceful,” he said. “Peace is coming back to our country.”

He said the regime wants negotiations with the opposition and said there were “two minor problems” in Misrata and Zawiya. There, he said, “we are dealing with terrorist people,” hut he hoped to reach a peaceful settlement with them.

Most shops in Tripoli were closed and long lines formed at bakeries as people ventured out for supplies.

In the Souq al-Jomaa neighborhood, piles of ashes stood in front of a burned-out police station. Graffiti on the walls read, “Down, down with Gadhafi.” Elsewhere, shattered glass and rocks littered the streets.

A law school graduate walking to his house in the Fashloum area said he had seen many people killed by snipers in recent days.

“People are panicked, they are terrified. Few leave their houses. When it gets dark, you can’t walk in the streets because anybody who walks is subject to be shot to death,” he said.

He said Col. Gadhafi’s use of force against protesters had turned him against the regime.

“We Libyans cannot hear that there were other Libyans killed and remain silent,” he said. “Now everything he says is a lie.”

In Tripoli’s Green Square, where state television has shown crowds of Gadhafi supporters in recent days, armed security men in blue uniforms were stationed around the plaza. Pro-Gadhafi billboards and posters were everywhere. A burned restaurant was the only sign of the unrest.

Supporters in about 50 cars covered with Gadhafi posters drove slowly around the square, waving green flags from the windows and honking horns. A camera crew filmed the procession.

Taxi driver Nasser Mohammed was among those who had a picture of Gadhafi and a green flag on his car.

“Have you heard the speech last night?” he asked. “It was great. Libyans don’t want anyone but Gadhafi. He gave us loans.”

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