Gaddafi set for battle as US imposes sanctions

French President becomes 1st world leader to openly demand Gaddafi`s ouster.

Tripoli: Increasingly embattled Muammar Gaddafi tried to rally his supporters with a rabble-rousing speech in which he called for them to fight on as the US imposes sanctions.

In a brief but chilling address in Tripoli`s Green Square, Gaddafi told hundreds of cheering supporters to prepare themselves for a fight to defend the city.

Libya`s envoy to the United Nations, Mohammed Shalgham, a childhood friend of Gaddafi, became the latest official to abandon him, with a diplomat saying he had joined his deputy Ibrahim Dabbashi in defecting.

"Please, the United Nations, save Libya. Let there be no bloodshed, no killing of innocents. We want a decisive, rapid and courageous resolution from you," Shalgham told the Security Council.

Gaddafi loyalists had earlier killed several people in shooting that spread through Tripoli, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first world leader to openly demand his ouster.

As outraged Western governments scrambled to craft a collective response to a bloody crackdown which has claimed hundreds of lives, the United States said it was moving ahead with unilateral and multilateral sanctions against the regime.

President Barack Obama on Friday imposed sanctions on Gaddafi’s government, saying the move was intended to target Gaddafi and not the assets of his nation.

Obama wielded presidential power in an executive order, seizing assets and blocking any property in the United States belonging to Gaddafi or his four sons.

The European Union agreed to slap an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on Libya.

The move came hours before the UN Security Council was due to meet to discuss options to respond to Libya`s repression of its people, and following complaints that the international response was too slow.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to take "decisive action" on the crisis where he said more than 1,000 people have now been killed.

"Loss of time means more loss of lives," he said.

A draft resolution warns Gaddafi that the violence could amount to "crimes against humanity”, diplomats said.

Despite demands for action from Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and other European leaders, no vote on a sanctions resolution is expected before the weekend, envoys said.

In a rooftop address on Friday, Gaddafi urged his partisans in the square below to "defend Libya”. "If needs be, we will open all the arsenals.”

"We will fight them and we will beat them," he said as frenzied supporters raised his portrait and waved the country`s green flag.

Almost the entire east of the oil-rich North African nation has slipped from Gaddafi`s control since a popular uprising began with protests in the port city of Benghazi on February 15.

Hundreds of people have been killed in a brutal crackdown, and tens of thousands of foreigners have scrambled to leave the country.

State television showed the 68-year-old leader repeatedly raising his arms and shaking his fists during the brief appearance while shouting that the Libyan people "love Gaddafi”.

"Life without dignity has no value, life without green flags has no value," Gaddafi told them. "Sing, dance and prepare yourselves."

It was Gaddafi`s third public statement this week. Previously, he called on his followers to crush the insurrection and later said al Qaeda was behind "drug crazed mobs" of young people trying to unseat him.

In Ankara, meanwhile, Sarkozy said "Mr Gaddafi must go”, becoming the first world leader to demand the ouster of the former Army colonel who seized power in a 1969 coup.

In Tripoli, security forces opened fire indiscriminately on worshippers leaving prayers, desperate to prevent new protests on the weekly Muslim day of rest, residents said.

Two people were killed in the Fashlum neighbourhood and several more in Sug al-Jomaa, witnesses said.

Both are eastern suburbs where security forces had opened fire on previous days, but sustained gunfire was also reported in the western district of Ghut Ashaal.

With police and troops deployed in force outside their mosques, prayer leaders followed texts for their sermons that had been imposed by the authorities calling for an end to "sedition”, worshippers said.

The United States withdrew embassy personnel from Tripoli and "shuttered" its embassy for security reasons, the White House said on Friday.

The second city Benghazi, where the unprecedented protests against Gaddafi`s four-decade rule first erupted, remained firmly in the hands of rebels, a report said.

Libya`s Ambassador to Lisbon, Ibrahim Emdored, also defected, denouncing Gaddafi`s regime as "fascist, tyrannical and unjust" and calling on him to quit.

Tripoli`s ambassadors to France and to the UN cultural organisation UNESCO have also quit. The Paris embassy had already been seized by protesters calling themselves the "children of the revolution”.

Gaddafi, meanwhile, sought to shore up dwindling support by deploying the country`s oil wealth. State television said families would be eligible for USD 400 (EUR 290) each and that some public sector workers could get pay rises of as much as 150 percent.

Dabbashi, who has turned against the regime, said a "psychologically unstable" Gaddafi may kill himself rather than be caught by his opponents.

"He might seek to send some of his family members abroad but I believe he prefers to die in Libya because of his narcissistic character -- he wants to act like a hero," Dabbashi said.

Bureau Report

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