Moammar Gaddafi clings to power in Libya, protests continue

Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change.

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Compiled by Ian Saleh
Washington Post Staff
Tuesday, February 22, 2011; 4:30 PM

Moammar Gaddafi refused to step down amid growing protests, as Sudarsan Raghavan, William Branigin and Leila Fadel reported:

Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi on Tuesday defiantly rejected opposition demands that he give up power, vowing that he would never leave the North African nation he has ruled for more than four decades and would die a "martyr."

He spoke after leaders of a popular revolt seized control in some areas of Libya and top officials resigned to protest attacks by security forces that have killed more than 230 civilians.

In his speech in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, Gaddafi urged supporters to "get out of your homes and fill the streets," and he exhorted them to "attack" those he said wanted to "destroy Libya." He insisted that he cannot resign, since he has no official title. In a televised appearance earlier Tuesday, the erratic ruler held an umbrella out the door of a car and told an interviewer, "I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela."

Video: Gaddafi, 'I would die here as a martyr'

Throughout the history of Gaddafi's reign there have been many scandals which the strongman has overcome. As Sam Sanders explained:

The 68-year-old, who has controlled Libya since he came to power in a bloodless 1969 military coup, has never been one to shy away from controversy. We've rounded up some of his biggest scandals throughout the years:

Fallout from the WikiLeaks cables

In the 2009 WikiLeaks release of U.S. State Department cables, memos detailed some tidbits about Gaddafi. For instance, he has an intense dislike of staying above the first floor of hotels. He also can not climb more than 35 steps. He has a fear of flying and is known to travel with a Ukranian nurse described as a "voluptuous blonde" who "knows his routine."

U.N. General Assembly address

In September 2009, Gaddafi spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City. During the hour-and-40-minute address, he tore up a copy of the U.N. charter, drew similarities between the U.N. Security Council and al-Qaeda and pushed for Tony Blair (then British prime minister) and former U.S. president George W. Bush to be put on trial for the Iraq war. He also suggested swine flu was created by the military. During his time in New York City, Gaddafi had planned to erect a luxury tent in Bedford, N.Y., but Donald Trump, who owned some of the land where the tent would sit, asked Gaddafi to leave. He did.

Violence across Libya has affected worldwide energy markets, as Steven Mufson reported:

Italian oil giant ENI, the largest producer of oil and gas in Libya, has suspended shipments of natural gas through its pipeline that takes supplies from the North African nation to Europe. The pipeline provides about 10 percent of Italy's natural gas, but ENI said it would be able to meet customers' needs.

ENI, which also produces about one-third of Libya's approximately 1.5 million barrels a day of crude oil, said that some of its oil and gas production activities had also been temporarily suspended, but it added that none of its facilities has been damaged.

With the widening crisis in Libya, anxiety about the security of Libya's approximately 1.2 million barrels a day of oil exports has been spreading, driving up crude oil prices on world markets.

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