Libyan state TV has aired an audio speech from leader Muammar Gaddafi in which he vowed to defeat the NATO alliance trying to dislodge him from Tripoli.
“This is the first time they are facing an armed nation of millions,” he said. “They will be defeated, the alliance will be defeated.”
The TV station said the speech was from “a telephone call from the brother leader on June 17”, although this could not be independently verified.
“We are in our country and we are determined to stay and defend it … We are staying, we are staying. Let them even use nuclear bombs,” the Libyan leader said, before referring to the rebels seeking his overthrow as “traitors” and “cowards”.
His defiant speech came as his forces and rebels exchanged heavy artillery fire near the western city of Zlitan on Friday.
Earlier during the day at least 10 people were killed and 40 others wounded after forces loyal to Gaddafi shelled the rebel-held city of Misurata in western Libya, a rebel spokesman said.
“Gaddafi forces bombarded Misurata today from the eastern and western sides,” rebel spokesman Ahmed Hassan told the Reuters news agency on Friday.
“At least 10 civilians were killed and more than 40 wounded.”
Two loud blasts, meanwhile, shook Libya’s capital, Tripoli following a series of more distant explosions, an AFP reporter said.
The reports could not be immediately verified.
In another development on Friday, Libyan opposition leader Mahmud Jibril denied suggestions by a Russian envoy that the rebels had been negotiating with Gaddafi’s government.
“I can assure you there is and there was no negotiation between the National Transitional Council (NTC) and the regime,” the head of the opposition NTC told a press conference in Naples, Italy.
Speaking alongside Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, Jibril said that were negotiations to take place, the NTC would “announce it out of commitment to our friends all over the world”.
“We pursue every means possible, whether political, whether military, to liberate our country and establish democratic government based on a constitution and equal rights,” he said.
Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov said in Tunis earlier on Friday that representatives of Gaddafi had made contact with the rebels in a number of European capitals, including Berlin, Paris and Oslo.
Margelov said the Libyans needed an opportunity to negotiate, “a mechanism that brings them together and if the international community can provide such a mechanism that would be a great help”.
Solution based on dialogue
Frattini also questioned the possibility of talks between the two sides.
“Italy has always encouraged the search for contacts and a solution based on dialogue but unfortunately the regime has not sent any positive response and has always demanded that Gaddafi’s remaining in power be guaranteed,” he said.
Frattini said that he trusted the NTC to “determine the criteria and methods for establishing a channel for dialogue but in no way to legitimise the current regime, which is being isolated internationally”.
Frattini predicted that senior Libyan leaders would be targeted “in a few days” by international arrest warrants, making it impossible to give them any legitimacy.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, is seeking arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdallah al-Senoussi, deemed most responsible for crimes against humanity in Libya.
Frattini’s comments came a day after he announced that Rome will host a meeting with 200-300 people from Libyan society, including all tribal chiefs, probably next week.
Jibril hailed the announcement, describing the meeting as “very crucial and important”. He said it would aim at “striking a national consensus between all Libyan political forces”.
It was “very important to show that all Libyan forces are behind the NTC,” Jibril added. “It will help us to achieve a better roadmap.”
Italy is Libya’s former colonial ruler and is playing a pivotal role in the NATO-led air campaign against Gaddafi’s forces by supplying bases for aircraft.