Blood­bath warn­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

LIBYAN strong­man Muam­mar Gaddafi i s warn­ing ‘‘ thou­sands’’ will die if the West in­ter­vened to sup­port the up­ris­ing against him, as rebels drove back an at­tack by his forces on an east­ern town.

The chill­ing warn­ing came as west­ern pow­ers damp­ened ex­pec­ta­tions of any early im­po­si­tion of a no-fly zone over Libya, amid a clam­our from west­ern states for ac­tion to pre­vent Gaddafi’s war­planes from at­tack­ing his own peo­ple.

The United States is a ‘‘ long way’ ’ from de­cidin­gon whether to im­pose a no-fly zone, US Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton said as two US Navy ships steamed into po­si­tion off Libya.

The 22 - mem­ber Arab League ap­peared to of­fer an Arab and African al­ter­na­tive to West­ern in­ter­ven­tion, say­ing it would con­sider back­ing a no-fly zone with the African Union. But it ruled out sup­port­ing any di­rect for­eign mil­i­tary in­ter - ven­tion in Libya.

Gaddafi’s two-and-a-halfhour speech at a cer­e­mony of loy­al­ists in the cap­i­tal Tripoli came as the UN refugee agency made a plea for hun­dreds of planes to air­lift ‘‘ acres of peo­ple’’ wait­ing in freez­ing con­di­tions to cross the Libyan bor­der into Tu­nisia. Bri­tain said it was send­ing planes t o air­lift thou­sands of Egyp­tians stuck in refugee camps at the bor­der, while France said it was send­ing a he­li­copter car­rier to waters off Libya to help evac­u­ate refugees.

Libyan rebels who con­trol part of the coun­try’s east called on the United Na­tions to or­der air strikes against mer­ce­nar­ies fight­ing for the 6 8 - year - old leader, who seized power in a 1969 coup.

But speak­ing live on state tele­vi­sion, Gaddafi warned that the ‘‘ battle will be very, very long’’ if there is any in­ter­ven­tion by for­eign pow­ers.

‘‘ If the Amer­i­cans or the West want to en­ter Libya they must know it will be hell and a blood­bath - worse than Iraq.’’ Ad­dress­ing ‘‘ our friends in Europe and the West,’’ he said it is ‘‘ not at all in their in­ter­est to shake the Libyan regime.’’

The vet­eran leader in an im­pas­sioned speech blamed al-Qaeda for the chal­lenge to his 41-year iron-fisted rule.

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