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'Delusional' Gaddafi says Libyans love him, denies protests

March 01, 2011 15:06 IST
"All my people love me," embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has said, adding that his people would die to protect him. Sixty-eight-year-old Gaddafi facing a popular uprising and mounting global pressure to step down, also flatly denied there have been demonstrations against him. His comments came even as protesters took control of towns in eastern parts of the north African country and closed in on Libyan capital Tripoli.

"They love me. All my people are with me. They would die to protect me," he said in halting English, laughing off international pressure to step down. In an interview to three western media organisations including the BBC and the United States network ABC, Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years with an iron hand, laughed at the suggestion he would leave strife-torn Libya and said that he felt betrayed by the world leaders who had urged him to quit.

"No demonstrations at all in the streets," claimed Gaddafi. "No one is against us, against me for what?" The interview took place in a restaurant overlooking Tripoli's port, and Gaddafi, sometimes breaking into English from Arabic, had seemed relaxed throughout.

In the first reaction by the West to the interview, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said it showed Gaddafi was "frankly delusional" and "unfit to lead". "When he can laugh and talk to journalists while he is slaughtering his own people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality," she said.

One of the interviewers said the media interaction was granted because Gaddafi wanted to get the truth out. Gaddafi accused Western countries of abandoning Libya and said that they had no morals and wanted to colonise the country.

Asked if he would follow the advice of Western leaders to quit, he said he had no official position to give up. Gaddafi insisted he could not step down because he is neither a president nor a king. "The position is honorary. It has nothing to do with exercising power or authority. In Britain who has the power, is it Queen Elizabeth or is it David Cameron," he asked.

Foreigners didn't understand the Libyan system, Gaddafi said, claiming that power was already in the hands of the people. He had harsh words for Western leaders who have been part of Libya's rapprochement with the outside world in recent years. He said he felt betrayed.

"The West, he said, wanted to recolonise Libya and that was why it had been singled out," he said.

"I'm surprised that we have an alliance with the West to fight the Al Qaeda, and now that we are fighting terrorists they have abandoned us," Gaddafi said. "Perhaps they want to occupy Libya."

Gaddafi challenged those, including United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, who have accused him of having money abroad, to produce "one shred" of evidence. He said he would "put two fingers in their eye".
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