Gaddafi rallies supporters in Libya as Sarkozy calls for ouster

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.
By Alaa Shahine, Zainab Fattah and Benjamin Harvey
(c) 2011 Bloomberg News
Friday, February 25, 2011; 1:40 PM

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Muammar Qaddafi rallied supporters in his capital, Tripoli, telling them to defend their country from opposition forces that have consolidated control of the eastern part of the Libya.

"We will fight and defeat" any foreign intervention and "defend the oil", Qaddafi told crowds gathered in Tripoli's Green Square, who carried posters and banners supporting him.

"When needed, all the weapons stores will be opened so that all the Libyan people and the Libyan tribes are armed," he said. "Libya will become a fire."

The prospect of civil war in North Africa's biggest oil producer has pushed crude prices to a 2 1/2-year high, and led to calls for intervention to stop the worst violence yet seen in two months of spreading unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. France and the U.K. will submit a plan for an arms embargo and other sanctions against Libya at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council today.

"France's position is clear, Mr. Qaddafi must go," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Ankara today. Sarkozy, the first leader of a major power to call openly for Qaddafi's resignation, said intervention wasn't a good option.

Tripoli has been gripped by violence today. About 1 million of Libya's 6.4 million inhabitants live in Tripoli, according to a 2006 census.

Several people were killed in the capital when security forces loyal to Qaddafi fired on protesters after worship, Al Arabiya television said, citing at least three witnesses. The U.K. government said the route to Tripoli airport is no longer safe. U.S. Senators John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, called on the Obama administration to back the rebels with weapons.

In his address, Qaddafi vowed to fight his opponents, saying the rebellion is an outside attempt to take over the country, a former Italian colony that gained independence in 1951.

"We will defeat them as we defeated Italy. This is the power, the undefeated power. Life is worthless without dignity," Qaddafi said.

Oil headed for its biggest weekly gain in two years on concern the turmoil may spread to other parts of the region. Crude for April delivery gained as much as $1.92 to $99.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $96.60 a barrel at 1:42 p.m. London time.

Libya normally pumps 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, selling most of it to Europe, according to Bloomberg estimates. That's about 1.8 percent of world supply.

With the eastern coastline staying under the control of Qaddafi opponents, the issue now is whether and how he will be ousted.

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