Monday, February 28, 2011

Gadhafi Denies That There Are Protests In Lybia Saying His People Love Him

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday denied the existence of the protests that have threatened his hold on power.

In an interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, Gadhafi also denied using force against his people, Amanpour reported.

"My people love me. They would die for me," he said, according to the network.

Government forces have repeatedly clashed with demonstrators over the past two weeks, fired on crowds and at times fired indiscriminately at people in the streets, numerous witnesses have told CNN. The death toll has topped 1,000, according to an estimate from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Gadhafi's regime has lost control of parts of the country, and with each passing day more Libyan officials around the world have defected, joining calls for his ouster.

Even as Gadhafi sought to project confidence Monday, reports came in that a military jet bombed a military base in an area controlled by protesters.

The base is near Ajdabiya, 90 miles south of Benghazi, a stronghold of government opponents. Some bases in the area have fallen into the hands of protesters as more members of the military have abandoned Gadhafi's regime and joined demonstrations.

Several soldiers told CNN they switched their allegiance after refusing to use weapons against peaceful demonstrators.

CNN saw the military jet fly above and heard the sounds of explosions. Witnesses reported a bombing at the base.

But Libyan state television later denied any such bombing. The Temporary General Committee for Defense denied reports that the Libyan air force conducted strikes on the ammunition depots in the cities of Ajdabiya and Rajima, state TV reported.

While CNN has staff in some cities, the network can not independently confirm reports for many areas in Libya. CNN has also compiled information through telephone interviews with witnesses.

Pro-Gadhafi forces have tried to attack a radio station in Misrata, a city controlled by protesters, a witness said. A military chopper has tried to land a couple of times in the past three days with soldiers on board, but the opposition fired at the soldiers and kept them away, the witness said.

The international community launched new efforts Monday to pressure Gadhafi to halt the violence.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, said, "Col. Gadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern. And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Gadhafi to go, now, without further violence or delay."

Clinton said the United States is exploring "all possible options," and that "nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyan citizens."

Asked at a news conference Monday whether the U.S. planned an imminent military response, Clinton said "no."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that "exile is certainly one option" for Gadhafi. Carney also said the U.S. government is considering the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

The Obama administration is "actively reaching out to those in Libya who are working to bring about a government" that respects the rights and reflects the aspirations of the Libyan people, Carney said. "Col. Gadhafi needs to step aside."

Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said the United States is "repositioning" naval and air forces in the region to be prepared for any option that it may need to exercise. He would not comment on whether any ground forces are being put on alert or having leaves cancelled because of Libya.

The United States became the latest country to announce it had frozen Gadhafi-related assets. The U.S. government froze at least $30 billion in Libyan government assets under U.S jurisdiction after enacting sanctions on Friday, a Treasury official said Monday. It marked the largest amount ever blocked under a sanctions program, according to Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

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