Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi said he survived NATO attacks on his Tripoli compound and is now in a place “you can’t reach and where you can’t kill me.”
Libyan state television yesterday presented what it said was a telephone interview with Qaddafi, hours after Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Qaddafi may have been wounded in alliance attacks. The Libyan leader thanked his followers for their concern after the Italian minister’s remarks as he denounced NATO as the “cowardly crusader.”
“Even if you kill the body you will not be able to kill the soul that lives in the hearts of millions,” he said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama met yesterday with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. They said that military operations will continue “as long as the Qaddafi regime continues to attack its own population,” according to a White House statement.
Six explosions were heard in and around the Libyan capital, Tripoli, late yesterday and early today, Agence France-Presse reported, citing witnesses. Two occurred late yesterday to the east of the city and four were heard early today in the capital, AFP said without giving any more details.
Frattini said Qaddafi is likely to be named in an international arrest warrant next week. The action by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court would limit Qaddafi’s options if he seeks refuge in another country.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that he will request on May 16 arrest warrants for three Libyan individuals suspected of murder and persecution. He didn’t name them.
“I think one of these will be for Col. Qaddafi; I don’t know, but imagine it’s so,” said Frattini
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization extended its bombardment of Qaddafi’s forces and said its jets have “significantly” hindered the Libyan leader’s ability to attack civilians in the past three days.
Air strikes on Tripoli, the Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte, and the rebel-held port city of Misrata destroyed radar units, missile systems, rocket launchers and arms depots in the last 72 hours, the alliance said.
“We have taken out a significant part of Qaddafi’s war machine,” NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero told reporters yesterday in Brussels. “We can see the effect across Libya.”
NATO is attacking targets closer to Qaddafi, as rebels say they have taken control of Misrata and made advances on the strategic oil town of Brega along the central coast. Alliance Wing Commander Mike Bracken said no attacks took place on civilians in Misrata May 12.
“If we go back 25 days, there were tanks in the streets of Misrata,” Bracken told reporters from NATO’s mission command in Naples, Italy. “That is no longer happening.”
The Libyan government said 11 Muslim clerics were killed during a NATO airstrike yesterday in the eastern oil town of Brega, the Associated Press reported. NATO said it hit a command and control center.
The insurgency against Qaddafi’s four-decade rule in Libya, which has Africa’s biggest proven crude reserves, has helped push up oil prices by almost 15 percent since mid-February.
Crude for June delivery rose 68 cents, less than 1 percent, to settle at $99.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are up 1 percent this week and 34 percent in the past year.
In Washington, a delegation from the opposition Libyan Transitional National Council, led by Mahmoud Jibril, met yesterday at the White House with Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, the administration said in a statement.
After three days in Washington seeking financial help, the Libyan rebels’ finance minister said he was returning to Benghazi with little to show for his effort other than expressions of “overwhelming support and sympathy.”
“The problem with me is time,” Ali Tarhouni, formerly an economics professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in an interview in Washington. “We are at war. People are dying. It’s not a question of waiting it out a month or two. I need money yesterday, I need it a week ago.”
U.S. officials cited problems tapping the approximately $34 billion in frozen Libyan assets in the U.S. to help the rebels meet their budget needs in the areas of Libya they control.
The rebel’s Transitional National Council says it needs $3 billion to meet needs for the next six months. Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry said May 12 that he will draft legislation to clear the way for the transfer of $180 million from Libyan assets.
While better than nothing, that amount won’t last more 10 days and may not arrive fast enough, Tarhouni said.
Farhat Omer Bengdara, the former governor of the Central Bank of Libya and a member of UniCredit SpA’s board, expects Muammar Qaddafi’s regime to fall within three months, according to an interview with daily Corriere della Sera today.
“Once Misrata has fallen, the situation for him will become untenable,” Bengdara told the newspaper. He said the rebel group in its Benghazi stronghold needs “at least $3.6 billion to sustain the population.”