In a long, contradictory speech today, Libyan strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi blamed the uprising in his country on both al-Qaida seeking to create an Islamic state in Libya and a Western “colonial attempt." He denied that protests are under way while urging Libyans to "refrain from fighting back."
Speaking to a room of supporters, Qaddafi insisted there were al-Qaida operatives in the town where anti-government protests began. "The dormant cell in Bayda launched an attack against the local battalion and police stations," he said, according to a BBC translation. These extremists were also in Zawiya, Benghazi, and Misurata, but have now "slipped out of Libya," he said.
"They acknowledge no nationality. They believe the Islamic world is home to all," he said.
Qaddafi repeatedly insisted that Libyans did not, in fact, rise up at all. “It is a total lie. No demonstrations took place in any place,” he said, according to an Al Jazeera English live translation. “It is a conspiracy... to occupy Libya once again. We will fight to the last drop of blood to defend the Libyan territory inch by inch."
Qaddafi harped on the anti-imperialist theme before again insisting the demonstrations were overblown, “magnified and falsified” by the media. “The journalists are urging me,” he said. “I told them it could be a colonial attempt, or an attempt to control the oil fields or control vast areas within the Libyan oil fields.”
Qaddafi warned that if the U.S. or other foreign powers enter Libya, a lot of blood will be shed, according to the Reuters translation. As of now, Qaddafi said no more than 150 have been killed.
News reports estimate that anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people have been killed in the violence.
Qaddafi invited the United Nations and NATO to investigate what has happened in Libya. "How can the United Nations take decisions based on 100 percent false news?" he asked. Yet, at the same time, he issued an ominous warning to Libyans: “Refrain from fighting back.”
While the protesters against him may be getting international coverage, Qaddafi said, “people are demonstrating against them, in support of me... but they are under curfew imposed by the force of rifle” and thus less visible.
And Qaddafi insisted he has "no position from which to step down."
"The Libyan system is a system of people's authority, people's congresses and people's committees," Qaddafi said, according to the BBC translation. "It's not a system of president, government, political party, or class. Whoever wants to verify that, let him come here and we will challenge him and stick our fingers in his eyes with force. We challenge him to come the Libyan people and find out the truth.... The people are the master. They have the authority and the decision.... This regime, which the world does not understand, is the regime of the people's authority."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked on Tuesday if he thought there was any chance that Qaddafi would be prepared to leave voluntarily, or if his ouster would only come by force, whether by rebels or U.N. sanctions or Western intervention.
Gates replied, "Well, all I can say is that sometimes you actually have to listen to what people say. And he's saying he's not leaving."