A WILD and desperate- looking Colonel Muammar Gaddafi staged a dramatic defence of his collapsing 41-year rule last night, appearing on state television to damn the "rats" conspiring against him and to insist that he would die a martyr on Libyan soil.
For more than an hour, he hurled insults at the cameras. He said he would defy America, superpowers, "men with turbans and long beards" and anyone else who tried to end his revolution.
He said his opponents were trying to plunge Libya into civil war and to turn it into an Islamic state, or an Afghanistan or a Somalia.
Occasionally reading from his "Green Book" and shaking his forefinger at the camera, he threatened swift, violent and all-out retribution to those who continued to oppose him.
Frequently raising his voice to a scream, he said he had proved Libya was leader of the African, Asian and Latin American continents in their fight against imperialism. He would not leave the country for which he said his grandfather and many others had given their lives.
"Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of a revolution," he shrieked. "Muammar Gaddafi has no official position to resign from. He is the leader of the revolution forever. This is my country, my country."
Col Gaddafi made his appearance after a first meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the crisis in Libya. Some protesters and diplomats who had defected from his regime were calling for the UN to impose a no-fly zone to prevent a repeat of the air attacks ordered by the regime on Monday night.
But there was no immediate indication that the UN was likely to move beyond a condemnation of the killings of innocent protesters -- and even that looked likely to be blocked by Russia and China.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the violence as "completely unacceptable".
Forces loyal to Col Gaddafi seemed to have control over the capital Tripoli, with state television earlier showing footage of a pro-regime rally. Residents were said to be hiding inside their homes after attacks from the air and from snipers on roofs on Monday night.
There were reports of "massacres" in a number of districts, with Human Rights Watch giving a figure of 62 dead in the city.
Worst hit were those who attended an anti-government march in Tripoli on Monday afternoon. "Many people were killed by the explosions and bullets," a 22-year-old student who attended said.
Foreign nationals leaving the country gave dramatic accounts of seeing bodies on the streets and burning buildings. Residents insisted that many of the attackers were the African mercenaries Col Gaddafi is said to have hired to defend his regime to the end.
"They carry machineguns and machetes," one said. "If any of them are caught they are killed immediately."
The latest reports indicate that most of the east of Libya appeared to be beyond Col Gaddafi's reach yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)