Moammar Gaddafi said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday that Libyans would fight back if Western nations impose a no-fly zone to prevent the regime from using its air force to bomb government opponents staging a rebellion. He said imposing the restrictions would prove the West's real intention was to seize his country's oil wealth.
Gaddafi made his remarks in an interview aired Wednesday by Turkey's state-run TRT Turk television. The interview was conducted late at night when Gaddafi made a surprise appearance at a hotel where foreign journalists are staying in Tripoli and gave a few interviews.
In separate remarks, Gaddafi called on Libyans in the rebel-held east of the country to take back control from the opposition leaders who have seized the territory.
Forces loyal to the Libyan leader have been fighting rebels in the east as well as in a handful of towns close to the capital Tripoli, where he has total control.
In the interview, Gaddafi was responding to U.S. and British plans for action against his regime, including imposing a no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi's warplanes from striking rebels. Gaddafi claimed such a move would lead Libyans to understand that the foreigners' aim was to seize oil and take their freedom away. If that happened, he said, he "Libyans will take up arms and fight." Libyan state television also broadcast remarks by Gaddafi addressing a group of youths from the town of Zintan, 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli. Gaddafi again blamed al-Qaida operatives from Egypt, Algeria, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories for the turmoil roiling his country since Feb. 15. State television broadcast Gaddafi's address early on Wednesday, but did not say when the Libyan leader had spoken. Gaddafi has been in power since 1969, when he led a military coup that topple the monarchy.
In the TRT Turk interview, Gaddafi said there were no legitimate grounds for a foreign intervention in his country, insisting that Libya was only fighting al-Qaida as in Afghanistan or Pakistan. "If al-Qaida seizes Libya, that will amount to a huge disaster," Gaddafi said. "If they (al-Qaida fighters) take this place over, the whole region, including Israel, will be dragged into chaos. Then, (al-Qaida leader Osama) Bin Laden may seize all of north Africa that faces Europe."