US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded on Saturday that Moamer Kadhafi deliver democracy instead of threats, after the Libyan leader warned Europe of stinging attacks unless NATO halts its air war.
“Instead of issuing threats, Kadhafi should put the well-being and interests of his own people first and he should step down from power and help facilitate a democratic transition,” Clinton said on a visit to NATO ally Spain, the latest leg of a European tour.
In a speech broadcast by loudspeaker to thousands of loyalists gathered in Tripoli’s emblematic Green Square on Friday, the Libyan leader had warned that his loyalists could launch stinging attacks on Europe like “locusts and bees”.
“The Libyan people are capable, one day, of taking the battle to Europe and the Mediterranean,” Kadhafi said.
“They could attack your homes, your offices, your families, which could become legitimate military targets because you have transformed our offices, headquarters, homes and children into military targets which you say are legitimate,” Kadhafi said.
“If we decide to do so, we are capable of throwing ourselves on Europe like swarms of locusts or bees.”
Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez was asked at a news conference with Clinton about Kadhafi’s threat and vowed that NATO would keep up the pressure on the Libyan leader.
“The answer of Spain and the international coalition is to maintain the unity and determination with which we have been working in the past months,” she said.
“We are working together to protect the Libyan people from the threats and violence that Kadhafi is employing against them. We will stay until we achieve our goals.”
Kadhafi’s regime has earned notoriety over the four decades since he seized power in 1969, arming militant groups from Northern Ireland to the Philippines, and being held responsible for a string of bombings against Western targets, including in Europe.
A Libyan agent, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people, most of them US nationals.
The 1986 bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by US soldiers, which killed three people, two of them servicemen, prompted then US president Ronald Reagan to call Kadhafi a “mad dog” and order air strikes against Libyan cities in which at least 15 people died.
The Libyan regime also provided arms to the Irish Republican Army through the 1970s and 1980s for use in its bloody campaign against British security forces and was held responsible for the 1989 bombing of a French UTA airliner over west Africa.
The Libyan leader urged supporters to retrieve weapons that France supplied to rebels battling his regime from bases in an armed enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of the capital.
“March on the jebel (mountains) and seize the weapons that the French have supplied,” Kadhafi said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Friday that this week’s arms drop was meant only to defend peaceful civilians from Kadhafi’s forces and thus fell in line with existing UN resolutions on the conflict.
“Civilians had been attacked by Kadhafi’s forces and were in an extremely vulnerable situation and that is why medicine, food and also weapons of self-defence were parachuted,” Juppe said France Inter radio.
“It is not a violation of the UN Security Council resolutions” under which France and other allies launched air strikes and imposed embargoes to protect civilians from Kadhafi, he added.
NATO said on Saturday that it had stepped up its air strikes against Kadhafi’s forces on the front lines around the rebels’ two enclaves in the mainly government-held west — the Nafusa Mountains and Libya’s third-largest city Misrata.
In the past four days in Gharyan, a government stronghold near the mountains, NATO aircraft struck eight targets including a military complex used to resupply Kadhafi troops, tanks and other military vehicles, the alliance said.
In its daily report for Friday, NATO said it had launched a total of 42 strike sorties over Libya, hitting two tanks near Gharyan and two armed vehicles near Bir al-Ghanam, also near the Nafusa.
In and around Tripoli, it said it had hit a military facility, three radars, two anti-aircraft guns, a surface-to-air missile launcher, four tanks, and a command and control vehicle.