Libya Will Fight Until 'Last Man Standing'

The protests in Libya are against Moammar Gadhafi, one of the most colorful Arab rulers, who's been in place since 1969. Gadhafi's son went on state television to warn that his father's regime would fight until "the last-man standing."

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News on Presidents Day. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Protesters have been sending video of themselves out of Libya.

(Soundbite of protests and shouting)

INSKEEP: That protester is shouting God is great. This is one of several Arab nations facing uprisings today.

In Libya, the protests are against Moammar Gadhafi, one of the most colorful Arab rulers, who has run the place since 1969. He is formally known as the, quote, "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Republic."

Last night, Gadhafi's son went on television to warn that his father's regime would fight until, quote, "the last man standing."

No journalists are being allowed in the country. But NPR's Jason Beaubien is monitoring the situation from Cairo. And Jason, what are you learning?

JASON BEAUBIEN: Well, we're hearing that there are actually protests in the streets of Tripoli at this point. Up until this point, most of the protests have been outside of the Libyan capital. We're getting reports both on the Internet, on some of the pan-Arabic television stations, of protests in the capital itself, people setting fires. Residents are saying that security forces have completely removed themselves from Benghazi - the second-largest city. No foreign reporters have been allowed in yet. Internet access is extremely limited. So the information we're getting, it is difficult to determine exactly what's happening in Libya at the moment.

But one sign that things really are changing is the fact that Moammar Gadhafi's son, Seif Gadhafi, gave this threatening 40-minute speech, saying that the country is on the brink of civil war.

Mr. SEIF GADHAFI: (Foreign language spoken) We will not give up Libya. We will fight until the last man, woman, until the last bit of energy. We will not leave our country to let Al-Jazeera laugh at us, Al-Arabiya or the BBC or any traitors who live abroad and laugh at us here in Libya. We will not allow that.

BEAUBIEN: And there does seem to be some crumbling of support for Colonel Gadhafi. The Libyan ambassador to the Arab League resigned over Gadhafi's crackdown on the demonstrators. And also the Libyan ambassador to India says he is stepping down in protest.

INSKEEP: Now, that speech that you played the clip from raises a lot of questions, one of them being about the defiant tone, but another being that it would be Gadhafi's son and not Gadhafi who would be the one speaking. Any idea why?

BEAUBIEN: We really don't know. We don't even know where Gadhafi is at this point in time. It is interesting that it was his son. Again, we're sort of reading the tea leaves, because foreign reporters haven't been able to get in and we're just relying on the limited amount of information that is kind of trickling out of the country.

INSKEEP: Now, Gadhafi's son also complained there about Al-Jazeera, the Arab television network, as well as Al-Arabiya, one of its competitors. Have they been playing this story nonstop as they did with the protests in Egypt?

BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. This is the lead story in the Arab world right now. It's leading the newscasts. And they are basically saying that Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, has completely fallen. They are having people on the air. We have also at NPR talked to people in Benghazi who say that the city is now no longer under the control of Gadhafi. Under the security forces, the security forces have fled, they say, and that it's demonstrators who are - have - over Benghazi.

We're now getting reports that that also appears to be happening, to a much lesser degree, but these demonstrations appear to be now spreading into the capital, Tripoli, which makes it look like it's possible that this is going to engulf the entire country of Libya.

INSKEEP: One other thing, Jason Beaubien. You're there in Cairo, where the president, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to leave and the military was there ready to step in. Who, if anyone, would be ready to step in if Moammar Gadhafi lost his job?

BEAUBIEN: It's very interesting that we saw his son giving this speech, warning of civil war, warning protesters to back off, because it sort of demonstrated that yes, that is the sort of center of power there. It's centered around the Gadhafi family. And if Gadhafi and his family are forced out, there really aren't any heir-apparents ready to take power. He's very much pushed one tribe against another throughout the country. His son even talked about possibly splitting the country into East versus the West. There's the threat of a huge power vacuum if Gadhafi's regime were to fall in what's one of the largest oil-producing nations in the region.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jason Beaubien is monitoring events in Libya. Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

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