You'll never catch me, Gaddafi taunts NATO as clerics killed
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi yesterday taunted NATO that he had survived recent air strikes and is "in a place where you can't get me".
His government accused NATO of killing 11 Muslim clerics with a strike on a disputed eastern oil town.
The comments came after Italy's foreign minister said Gaddafi had very likely left the Libyan capital and had probably been wounded by NATO air strikes.
"I tell the cowardly crusader (NATO) that I live in a place they cannot reach and where you cannot kill me," said a voice which sounded like Gaddafi's in a brief recording played on Libyan TV.
"Even if you kill the body, you will not be able to kill the soul that lives in the hearts of millions," Gaddafi said, adding he received a "massive" number of calls after a NATO air strike on his Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli on Thursday.
There was no accompanying video, but Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Gaddafi was unharmed and in Tripoli, leading the country and in good spirits.
NATO allies including the US, Britain and France are bombing Libya as part of a UN mandate to protect civilians. They say they will not stop until the downfall of the Libyan leader, who took power in a coup 41 years ago.
As a result of the attacks, Libya was considering withdrawing from a global campaign against Islamic militants, the state news agency JANA said yesterday.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor would request an arrest warrant for Gaddafi on Monday, Spanish radio station Cadena Ser reported, citing ICC sources.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he heard the report on Gaddafi from the bishop of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli.
"I tend to give credence to the comment of the bishop of Tripoli, who has been in close contact over recent weeks, when he told us that Gaddafi is very probably outside Tripoli and is probably also wounded. We don't know where or how," Mr Frattini said.
Mr Ibrahim said Italy's remarks were cover for a "horrendous" NATO strike that hit a guesthouse in the eastern city of Brega that killed 11 people and wounded 45, five of whom were in critical condition. State television showed footage of at least nine bodies with multiple wounds wrapped in blankets.
Meanwhile, the rebels were to meet senior White House officials in Washington to seek cash and diplomatic legitimacy.
Rebels have been pleading for funds they say will help them hold besieged positions on the ground.
They want Washington to help free up to $180m (€128m) in frozen Gaddafi assets to bankroll their campaign.
"There is no place for Muammar Gaddafi in Libya's future," rebel council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil told television station Al Arabiya. He pledged amnesty to Gaddafi defectors.