March 3, 2011 3:15:23 am
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has warned thousands of Libyans will die if the US or NATO intervenes in his country.
Gaddafi was addressing supporters and foreign media on Wednesday in a conference hall in Tripoli as his forces were launching a counteroffensive against parts of the rebel-held eastern half of the country. The US is moving naval and air forces closer to Libyan shores and is calling for Gaddafi to give up power immediately.
Two amphibious assault ships,USS Kearsarge,which can carry 2,000 Marines,and USS Ponce,passed through the Suez Canal on Wednesday en route to the Mediterranean. The destroyer USS Barry moved through the canal on Monday as part of efforts to increase diplomatic and military pressure on Gaddafi to quit.
Gaddafi also vowed to fight to the last man and last woman to defend his country. Forces loyal to Gaddafi launched a major fightback in Libyas east Wednesday,sparking a rebel warning that foreign military help might be needed to end his rule.
Government troops briefly captured Marsa El Brega,an oil export terminal,before being driven back by rebels who have controlled the town 800 km east of Tripoli for about a week,rebel officers said.
Their account was contradicted by Libyan state TV,which said Gaddafis forces held the airport and seaport,and the veteran leader told an applauding audience the world did not understand that he had given power to the people long ago. We put our fingers in the eyes of those who doubt that Libya is ruled by anyone other than its people, he said,referring to his system of direct democracy launched in 1977.
The assault appeared to be the most significant military operation by Gaddafi since the uprising began two weeks ago.
In a fierce day-long battle,rebel forces in this strategic oil town successfully repelled an attack on Wednesday by government-aligned mercenaries backed by artillery and war planes,witnesses in the town said. At least five were confirmed dead in the fighting,the witnesses said,citing firsthand reports from the hospital.
The mercenaries attacked at dawn,and quickly took the airport and a university in the town,an oil-exporting terminal on the Libyan coast around 500 miles east of Colonel Gaddafis stronghold in Tripoli. Witnesses said they took hostages at the university and used them as human shields.
But despite hours of shelling and repeated airstrikes,the invaders were beaten back by the end of the day,the witnesses said,as rebel reinforcements arrived from the nearby cities of Ajdabiya and Benghazi. The rebels said they would probably seek foreign military help,a sensitive topic for Western countries uncomfortably aware that Iraq suffered years of bloodletting after a 2003 US-led invasion.
We are probably going to call for foreign help,probably air strikes that will put the nail in his (Gaddafis) coffin, Mustafa Gheriani,a spokesman for the rebel February 17th Coalition said.
UN suspends Libya from rights council
UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly suspended Libya from its top human rights body. The 192 member nations voted by consensus on councils recommendation to suspend Libyas membership on UNs top human rights body for committing gross and systematic violations of human rights.
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