Libya’s Premier denounces `terrorists` as fighting rages

Libya`s Premier denounces a plot to turn his country into a terrorist base.

Last Updated: Feb 21, 2011, 13:05 PM IST

Cairo: Libya`s Premier denounced on Sunday a plot to turn his country into a terrorist base, as anti-regime protests reached the capital and world powers denounced an iron-fisted crackdown said to have cost hundreds of lives.

As the death toll continued to rise, world leaders stepped up their pressure over strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s response to the unprecedented challenge to his four-decade rule of the oil-rich North African country.

And state television announced that Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, would address the nation later on Sunday. The 68-year-old Gaddafi has himself made no public comment since violence erupted on Tuesday.

In what was the first high-level public reaction to six days of bloody protests, Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told EU ambassadors in Tripoli, without elaborating, that there are "very precise plans, destructive and terrorist, that want Libya to become a base for terrorism”.

And he said Libya has the "right to take all measures to preserve its unity, stability and people, and to assure the protection of its riches and preserve its relations with other countries," state news agency Jana reported.

Mahmudi also lashed out at "foreign news media”, whose reports he said were a "mixture, without distinction, of reality and lies”.

But in a significant crack in the regime`s public face, Libya`s envoy to the Arab League announced he was "joining the revolution”.

"I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators (in Libya) and I am joining the ranks of the revolution," Abdel Moneim al-Honi said.

Ironically, Libya currently holds the rotating presidency of the 22-member Arab League.

While Mahmudi gave no details to support his claims, an official said earlier on Sunday that security forces had foiled an attempt by saboteurs to set fire to oil wells at the Sarir field.

He said six Libyans had been arrested and that the "gang received its weapons from outside Libya and got its instructions through the Internet”.

And another official said that Islamist gunmen had stormed a military depot and the nearby port of Derna on Wednesday and Friday and seized weapons and vehicles after killing four soldiers.

They also took hostages, both soldiers and civilians, and were "threatening to execute them unless a siege by security forces is lifted" in nearby Al-Baida.

With most of this week`s violence concentrated in the east of the country, unrest hit the capital itself on Sunday night, one resident said.

Speaking from the working-class district of Gurgi, on Tripoli`s western approaches, the source said "there are demonstrations. You can hear slogans shouted against the regime and gunfire. Tear gas has got into my house."

Bureau Report