- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi vowed Tuesday to “die a martyr” rather than flee his embattled country, as tens of thousands of foreigners rushed across the borders to Tunisia or Egypt or caught emergency flights to Europe.

Col. Gadhafi also called on supporters to take to the streets to fight anti-government protesters claiming control over almost all of the eastern part of Libya with the help of rebellious soldiers, as the Libyan army Tuesday deployed “large numbers” of troops to Sabratah, west of the capital, Tripoli, where demonstrators destroyed most of the offices of the state security services.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the “appalling violence” in Libya, and Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the army’s vicious assaults Monday on unarmed civilians “cowardly” and “beyond despicable.”

The Massachusetts Democrat also appealed to President Obama to reimpose sanctions on Libya that President George W. Bush lifted after Col. Gadhafi renounced weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who denounced the violence, again expressed her outrage at the Gadhafi regime.

“There is no ambivalence. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the violence must stop and that the government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of all of its citizens and to support the exercise of those rights,” she said.

In New York, a unanimous U.N. Security Council called for an immediate end to the violence and “deplored the repression against peaceful demonstrators, and expressed deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of civilians.”

After the closed-door U.N. session, Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi made a potentially damning claim under international law, saying army units were indiscriminately attacking unarmed civilians “and the genocide started.” Other Libyan diplomats have also used the word “genocide” since Monday.

Col. Gadhafi continued to lose diplomatic support. The Arab League barred Libya from its meetings, while Libyan ambassadors in Bangladesh, India and Indonesia resigned, joining the ambassador to the Arab League, who quit Monday. On Tuesday evening, Peru became the first nation to cut all diplomatic ties with Libya.

Libya’s ambassador to the United States on Tuesday called for Col. Gadhafi to resign.

“There’s no other solution,” said Ambassador Ali Aujali, who added that he was staying on to represent the “good side” of the Libyan government. He implored the United States to “raise its voice very strongly.”

“This regime is shaking, and this is the time to get rid of it,” Mr. Aujali said. “Please, please, help the Libyan people.”

In a defiant and rambling speech carried on Libya’s state TV, Col. Gadhafi lashed out at protesters, called on supporters to take to the streets and blamed the unrest on drug-crazed young people.

“I will not leave Libya. I will die a martyr,” said the mercurial despot, dressed in brown robes and a turban, which he repeatedly readjusted on his head. “I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents.”

Although his army killed hundreds in several days of unrest, Col. Gadhafi said, “I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired. … When I do, everything will burn.”

“You men and women who love Gadhafi, … get out of your homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs. … Starting tomorrow, the cordons will be lifted. … The Libyan people and the popular revolution will control Libya.”

According to Libyans in the North African country and dissidents living in exile, scores of people have been killed and hundreds injured as mercenaries beholden to the regime have indiscriminately fired on protesters.

Human Rights Watch put the death toll at more than 234. The International Coalition Against War Criminals reported 519 deaths, 3,980 wounded and at least 1,500 missing since the start of demonstrations a week ago.

A Libyan dissident, who like most others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a fear of reprisal, said the regime has launched “horrific assaults” on unarmed civilians in its attempt to crush the protests.

“Gadhafi has shown that he is willing to burn Tripoli down,” he said.

Another dissident, who was incarcerated at Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison at the time of the regime’s 1996 massacre of more than 1,200 prisoners, said, “We know how brutal Gadhafi can be.”

“It is clear the regime has ended. The only question now is, at what cost,” he added.

Rihab Elhaj, a Libyan-American in the Washington area, said a relative in Libya told her that “African mercenaries” had orders to shoot at groups of more than three. People were venturing out on their own or in pairs, she said.

“Anyone out on the streets is assumed to be anti-regime and in danger of being shot by mercenaries,” added a female dissident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Anti-government protesters are planning a million-man march in Tripoli on Friday.

In his speech, Col. Gadhafi claimed he was poor, unlike the deposed leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.

“I don’t have money. I don’t have a palace,” he said.

At one point, he blamed the uprising on “youths on drugs” and, like a high school guidance counselor, added: “Stop using drugs. It is bad for your hearts.”

At times shouting and banging a podium, Col. Gadhafi appeared to blame Islamic fundamentalists for fomenting rebellion against his 41-year rule. “If you do not follow Gadhafi, who will you follow? Someone with a beard. Impossible!” he declared.

As state TV broadcast his speech, thousands of foreign residents fled Libya for the borders with Tunisia and Egypt. Some Tunisians told tales of abuse by Libyan security forces.

“It was hell,” said one refugee. “We were treated like animals.”

The Egyptian border was a tangle of cars and tour buses, carrying the first wave of some 2 million Egyptians who work in Libya.

“Gadhafi is crazy. It’s a massacre over there,” Ashraf Mohammed, a carpenter in Tobruk, Libya, told a reporter.

At a protest outside the Libyan Embassy in Washington, several dozen protesters shouted slogans against Col. Gadhafi. One Libyan medical student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, dismissed Col. Gadhafi’s claim that civil war would erupt if he left Libya.

“Look here,” he said, waving in the direction of a group of slogan-shouting youths. “They represent all the different tribes, and we are all united against one man.”

Ethiopians, Eritreans and Tunisians joined the protest. Yohannes Woube, an Ethiopian protester, said he hoped that the winds of change sweeping the Arab world would reach his country.

He clutched a placard that read: “Today Libya, tomorrow Ethiopia.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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