Tripoli: Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi early Monday predicted a swift end for "the rats" and the "coloniser", referring to the rebels and NATO, in an audio message on Libyan television extracts of which were published by Libyan news agency JANA.
"The end of the coloniser is close and the end of the rats is close. They (the rebels) flee from one house to another before the masses who are chasing them," Gaddafi declared in what the television said was a "live" broadcast.
"The coloniser and its agents can now only resort to lies and psychological warfare after all the wars with all the weapons have failed," Gaddafi said as rumours circulated on Twitter and in certain media about his imminent departure into exile.
Much of the message, his first in several weeks, was inaudible due to a "technical breakdown”, according to the television station.
The veteran leader called on his supporters to resist and to "prepare for the battle to liberate" the towns held by the rebels, as the insurgents said they had advanced in western towns including Zawiyah, Sorman and Gharyan.
The television broadcast "live" images of the Green Square in the heart of Tripoli where hundreds of backers of the regime were assembled brandishing portraits of the "guide" and green Libyan flags.
Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim meanwhile said the regime`s armed forces were capable of retaking the towns and districts where the rebels have made advances in recent days.
"Our mujahedin forces are capable of exterminating these gangs," he told a news conference reserved for the local press.
Quoted by JANA, Ibrahim added that pro-Gaddafi forces had Sunday repulsed a new rebel offensive on Zawiyah.
Rebels had on Saturday entered the town 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Tripoli, but the regime played down the importance of the attack which Ibrahim said was carried out by a few dozen fighters.
South of the rebel town of Misrata 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of the capital, the rebels had consolidated their positions in Tuarga after taking control of it on Friday and where they said they faced only some pockets of resistance.
But Ibrahim said pro-Gaddafi forces had "retaken control of the town and killed most of those from the Misrata-based gangs who advanced on Tuarga”.
The government spokesman admitted that the rebels had entered the town of Gharyan in the Djebel Nefussa region "in order to spread terror ... but there is no need for concern”. Government forces would, he said, take back the town "in the next few hours”.
Ibrahim also acknowledged "problems" in Sorman 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Tripoli, where "clashes" were taking place. But "hundreds of volunteers" backed by the Army were "handling the case of Sorman”, he said.