Arab League Reprimands Libya's Gadhafi
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As pressure mounts on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, he's lashing out at the protesters who have split his country in two. Today he called anti-government demonstrators rats, and he said he'd die a martyr rather than be forced from power.
NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Cairo.
JASON BEAUBIEN: In a rambling speech on Libyan state television, Gadhafi vowed to fight the demonstrators until his last drop of blood. Protests that erupted seven days ago have spread across the entire country. Rebels now claim to control most of eastern Libya.
Gadhafi has unleashed the most deadly response yet to the wave of pro-democracy demonstrations that are sweeping the region. Human Rights Watch says at least 62 people have died in the last two days of clashes just in the capital, Tripoli, alone.
In his lengthy address, translated here by Al-Jazeera, Gadhafi today promised more violence against anyone who rises up against him.
Mr. MOAMMAR GADHAFI (Libyan Leader) (Through Translator): I will not leave the country, and I will die - and I will die as a martyr (unintelligible).
BEAUBIEN: Gadhafi wore a traditional brown robe and matching headdress as he shouted at the camera. Adding to the defiant tone of the event, he delivered the speech in front of the preserved ruins of his former Tripoli residence. The building was bombed by U.S. war planes in 1986.
Gadhafi described the demonstrators as rats and crazy people. He added that they're working for foreign intelligence agencies and are high on drugs. The protesters demanding an end to his four decades of autocratic rule, Gadhafi said, are pushing Libya to the brink of civil war.
Mr. GADHAFI (Through Translator): Don't destroy your country for no reason. What is the reason for that? What's come over you? Shame on you. We were living in safety, security, prosperity. We're having our oil, our order and peace and happiness. Then we burn our country down.
BEAUBIEN: Gadhafi warned that Libya could end up like Somalia, and he called on his supporters to put on green armbands and take back the streets from the pro-democracy rebels.
The Arab League, in an emergency meeting here in Cairo today, harshly reprimanded the Gadhafi regime for its brutal crackdown on the protests and suspended Libya from the organization.
Mr. AMAR MOUSSA (Secretary General, Arab League) (Speaking Foreign Language).
BEAUBIEN: In a statement read by the secretary general of the Arab League, Amar Moussa, the regional body condemned what it said were violations of human rights law by the Libyan government and crimes against peaceful demonstrators. It denounced the use of mercenaries, live ammunition and heavy weapons against the protesters.
Mr. AMAR MOUSSA (Secretary General, Arab League): (Speaking Foreign Language)
BEAUBIEN: The Arab League, in a rare criticism of one of its own members, called for an immediate halt to the violence in Libya, and said Gadhafi's government must respond to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.
Unidentified Group: (Speaking Foreign Language)
BEAUBIEN: Outside the Libyan Embassy in Cairo, anti-Gadhafi protests continued again today. The crowd called for the ambassador to resign as have high-ranking Libyan diplomats in several other nations.
A protester, Mohammad Yousef, who's from Tripoli, says Gadhafi has been massacring his own people. Yousef warns that if Gadhafi isn't driven out now, he could launch deadly reprisals against his opponents.
Mr. MOHAMMAD YOUSEF: You know, it's the time for the revolution. If they stop now, there will never be a revolution in Libya. He will kill everyone, I swear. He will try to find everyone, every Libyan that were in the streets and will bring them to the jails and he will kill them.
BEAUBIEN: Gadhafi basically said the same thing in his speech today. As his country splinters, the strongman declared that anyone who undermines the sovereignty of the Libyan state will be sentenced to death.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Cairo
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