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Gaddafi impels supporters to fight as rebels approach Tripoli

(Xinhua)

13:52, August 15, 2011

TRIPOLI, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Monday called upon his supporters to gear up for a campaign to liberate rebel-held towns.

The appeal, aired early Monday morning by the Libyan television, came as NATO-backed rebels fighting to topple him had apparently broken the recent stalemate on the battleground and further closed in on the capital.

"Advance, challenge, pick up your weapons, and go to the fight to liberate Libya inch by inch from the traitors and NATO," Gaddafi said in what the broadcaster said was a live audio message.

"Get ready to fight... The blood of martyrs is fuel for the battlefield," the embattled colonel said in the speech, which was poor in sound quality and sometimes totally inaudible due to what the TV station called technical problems.

In excerpts of the TV speech published by the JANA news agency, Gaddafi said that the end of the "rats" and "colonizers" is close, referring to the rebels and NATO forces.

Meanwhile, JANA quoted government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim as saying that forces loyal to Gaddafi were capable of retaking the lost towns and "exterminating these gangs."

Gaddafi's call came amid rumors that the Libyan leader, who ascended to power four decades ago, was about to leave his homeland for exile.

Ibrahim accused the rumormongers of attempting to confuse and demoralize the Libyan public. "The leader is here in Libya, fighting for the freedom of our nation. He will not leave Libya," he said.

Gaddafi's message also followed a claim from the rebels that they had defeated government troops in Zawiyah and captured the strategic town just 40 km west of Tripoli.

Zawiyah is of great strategic importance, as it sits on a main coastal highway linking the capital with Tunisia, which serves as an important lifeline for the Libyan government. The oil refining facilities there also provide Tripoli with fuel.

The Libyan government, however, insisted that despite an attack by merely a few dozen rebel fighters, Zawiyah remained under the government's "full control" and the highway was not blocked.

The TAP press agency of Tunisia reported that on the western end of the highway, just a few vehicles crossed the Ras El Jedir border post on Sunday, which was in sharp contrast with the normal thousands.

In addition, fighting was also reported in Garyan, a southern gateway to the capital. Ibrahim said that the town was still "under our full control."

On the east front, rebel forces and pro-Gaddafi troops continued their fighting in the town of Brega. The rebels said they were gaining more ground in the strategic oil hub.

Besides, there are also sketchy reports that delegates from Libya's two warring sides held talks late Sunday in Tunisia. More details of this unconfirmed information are not available.

Libya has been embroiled for months in deadly violence since thousands of Libyans began protesting against the government after their Tunisian and Egyptian peers forced their respective leaders to step down.

Some Western and Arab powers launched a military intervention in March under the name of a UN resolution adopted to protect Libyan civilians, before NATO took over control of the mission weeks later.

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