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Gadhafi's Control Shrinks To Zone Around Tripoli
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Gadhafi's Control Shrinks To Zone Around Tripoli

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Gadhafi's Control Shrinks To Zone Around Tripoli

Gadhafi's Control Shrinks To Zone Around Tripoli
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The scene in Tripoli on Saturday featured mass evacuations at the airport and pro-Gadhafi demonstrations at the city's Green Square. As parts of the country fall to the opposition, Libya's capital is now seen as Moammar Gadhafi's last stand. Host Guy Raz speaks with Martin Fletcher of The Times of London, who is one of the few western reporters to make it into Tripoli.

GUY RAZ, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKENDS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

(Soundbite of protest)

RAZ: Some of the sounds from the Libyan capital Tripoli in the last 24 hours. For more than 10 days now, demonstrators across the country have demanded the ouster of the regime led by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. Today, President Obama said Gadhafi has lost legitimacy and should leave.

Much of eastern Libya is now in the hands of the opposition. In the capital Tripoli, small teams of foreign reporters are starting to arrive. There have been reports of pro-government militiamen opening fire on protesters there, killing dozens, perhaps hundreds. In a moment, we'll hear from eastern Libya.

But first, to the capital Tripoli, where we spoke with Times of London correspondent Martin Fletcher just a short time ago.

Mr. MARTIN FLETCHER (Correspondent, Times of London): As yet, there haven't been real fighting here like, I think, there was in Benghazi. But certainly, they have opened fire on protesters (technical difficulty). There were quite a number killed yesterday, but we haven't seen massacres. We haven't seen any evidence of the city being bombed by the Libyan air force.

That's why the government has invited us in. This is a city where the atmosphere is very tense, very fearful, and there's a lot of anger on both sides. It is the proverbial tinderbox. The regime is certainly fighting back in Tripoli. This is its stronghold. There are roadblocks all around. I think Gadhafi takes the view that if he can hold Tripoli, he can hold on to power.

RAZ: And Martin, I understand you're speaking to us close to Green Square, one of the main squares in the capital. What does it look like, at least on the surface?

Mr. FLETCHER: Outside of Green Square, the streets are pretty empty. It's very eerie. All the shops are closed and shuttered. In Green Square, it's just filling up with young people as well as old - waving flags, punching the air, blowing their horns, demonstrating their support for Gadhafi.

Are they put up to it? Some, probably; I don't know about the rest. Some are, you know, genuine supporters. Yeah, it would be wrong to say that he has no support in Tripoli. He clearly does have support in Tripoli.

RAZ: Have you been able to talk to critics, opponents of the government there -or are people simply too afraid?

Mr. FLETCHER: No. It's interesting: Some people are afraid; other people have got over their fear. They'll give you their names; they'll be quoted on the record, criticizing Gadhafi. And you see anti-Gadhafi graffiti on the walls - you know, Gadhafi's posters are everywhere at Tripoli. You've seen them defaced in a way I've never seen before.

RAZ: It seems as if people are confident enough to speak on the record, there's the sense that this regime's days are numbered.

Mr. FLETCHER: I don't know. You know, Gadhafi has his special brigades here. He has his Revolutionary Guards. You know, they're not just going to melt away. They're going to fight.

RAZ: Is there a clear sense, from what you've been able to gather so far - and I know you've only been there about a day - that violence is coming to the capital - serious, major violence?

Mr. FLETCHER: I think there's a real sense of foreboding, yes. We were warned by our government to, you know, this is our last chance to get out. And they encouraged us to get out. There are reports, rumors of the protesters advancing on Tripoli from the east. There's a sense that the city is being gradually encircled. And you know, I fear to think where this is going to end. There are lots of guns in evidence, and already we've had a lot of killings. It doesn't look at all good.

RAZ: That's Martin Fletcher. He's a correspondent for the Times of London, speaking to us from Tripoli in Libya. Martin, thank you.

Mr. FLETCHER: Thank you.

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