Capital voices admiration for 'brother leader'
IT IS 400 miles from Tripoli to Benghazi, but the fighting in Libya's second city might as well be on another planet for residents of the capital, where opposition to Muammar Gaddafi has been crushed or drowned out by an orchestrated chorus of loyal support for the "brother leader".
Patriotic songs boomed out from giant loudspeakers in the centre of Tripoli's Green Square yesterday afternoon as government forces reached the outskirts of Benghazi, which will be retaken, as the menacing popular slogan goes, "inch by inch, alley by alley, house by house".
Not that the people milling around waving green flags in the spring sunshine knew much about it. State TV channels continue to pump out unadulterated defiance of foreign intervention, most of it repeated clips of pro-Gaddafi rallies, but there is little news of the combat in the east.
Karim al-Garyani, a volunteer for the people's militia, was scathing about the UN security council's vote threatening to use "all necessary means" to defend Libyans from their own leader, and offered his mobile phone to display gruesome images of the corpses of soldiers killed in the month-long violence.
Garyani is certain that the outside world does not understand the implications of what it is doing. "Without Gaddafi, this country will be impossible to rule," he warned. "It will be like Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam."
Libyan media made little mention of the ceasefire announced on Friday, reinforcing the impression that it was intended to sow doubts in an already divided international community, rather than for a domestic audience.
Yesterday's news headlines on al-Jamahirya TV were condemnation of the UN resolution by Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, and the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
But many Libyans insist they don't believe reports on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, the Arabic satellite TV channels, and claim their coverage is exaggerated or false. "Brother citizen," warns a large hoarding overlooking Green Square, "the enemy spreads rumours and false information to weaken your resolve. Take care!"
Under a surface calm, Tripoli was tense but relatively quiet over the weekend, but there was a high-profile police presence in some areas.
Rumours of trouble after Friday prayers in Tajura were impossible to verify, not least because journalists' movements are severely restricted.
Professions of loyalty to Gaddafi are the opening gambit in almost any conversation with a foreigner. Yet whispered conversations reveal hope that, after 41 years in power, an end is approaching.
"People are being arrested by internal security and disappearing all the time," said one distraught middle-aged man. "If the world watches through the window, Gaddafi will survive. But if it comes through the door, he will not."