Gaddafi appears in public, vows to fight on

March 23rd, 2011 - 8:42 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Tripoli, March 23 (IANS) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made a public appearance near Tripoli, vowing to fight on, as the Western countries led by France were busy creating a new body to take over the lead in the current intervention in Libya, Xinhua reported.

Libya’s state TV showed that Gaddafi appeared late Tuesday before a crowd of supporters at his residence compound near Tripoli. It was his first public appearance in a week.

The compound, located in Bab Al-Aziziya, was hit by a cruise missile in Sunday night’s bombing by Western forces.

In his address, Gaddafi said: “Be it long or short, we’re ready for battle.”

Hours earlier, heavy explosions and intensive anti-aircraft fire resounded over Tripoli.

According to Xinhua, the blasts appeared to be a new round of airstrikes by coalition forces hitting Tripoli after nightfall, following similar operations starting Saturday that aimed to create a no-fly zone over Libya.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that a new political body, not NATO, will take over the responsibility of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.

The new body, to be set up as proposed by France, will consist of foreign ministers from countries that are currently participating in the military intervention in Libya, and some Arab states, he said, adding that it could meet soon in London or Paris.

He said the military action will stop only as “the Tripoli regime act with accurate and complete compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council, as it accepts an authentic ceasefire, and withdraws its troops from where they entered.”

On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his US counterpart Barack Obama agreed via phone on how to use the command structure of NATO to support the military operation in Libya.

“They agreed on the need to continue efforts to ensure the full implementation of 1970 and 1973 resolutions,” Sarkozy’s Office said in a statement, noting their satisfaction with the coordinated military operation in Libya.

The statement came after French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has set reconnaissance operation in motion earlier in the day, with two Rafale jets sending back visual information of Libya.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Francois Fillion again ruled out an option of sending ground troops to Libya.

“It’s not a war against Libya. It’s an operation of civil protection as it consisted in protecting Libyans by openly excluding sending forces to occupy the ground,” the premier told the National Assembly.

The UN Security Council passed last week a resolution backing to impose a no-fly zone on Libya and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, but gave no leeway for foreign ground troops to enter into Libya.

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