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State TV interviews Libyan dictator "in Tripoli," not Venezuela; US and Europe condemn violence in Libya as reports emerge that protesters were strafed by war jets.
Muammar Gaddafi emerged Tuesday morning on state-run television in a 40-second appearance to say that he is not in Venezuela as rumored but in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
"I want to have some rest," the embattled Libyan leader told a reporter in front of what Libyan television said was his house, according to CNN. "Because I was talking to the young man at Green Square, and I want to stay the night with them but then it started raining. I want to show them that I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media."
Green Square is where pro-government demonstrators have been located.
The U.S. and Europe, meanwhile, have condemned Libya’s use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, with reports that military jets have bombed protesters in Tripoli.
Other military jets flown by "senior colonels" have reportedly refused orders to bomb protesters and instead flown to Malta.
Meanwhile, "credible" Western intelligence reports said that Muammar Gaddafi had fled Libya and was on his way to exile in Venezuela, according to William Hague, the British foreign secretary.
Gaddafi later appeared on state-run television and said he was in Tripoli, according to CNN.
"I want to have some rest," Gaddafi said, standing in front of what Libyan television said was his house. "Because I was talking to the young man at Green Square, and I want to stay the night with them but then it started raining. I want to show them that I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media."
Unconfirmed media reports put the death toll in the country at 300. A self-described activist told Al Jazeera that warplanes and helicopters were "indiscriminately bombing one area after another" in Tripoli. "What we are witnessing today is unimaginable," Adel Mohamed Saleh said. "There are many, many dead."
On the ground in Tripoli a witness saw armed militiamen firing on protesters who were clashing with riot police in a neighborhood near Green Square, in the center of the capital, according to the New York Times.
As a group of protesters and the police faced off, 10 or so Toyota pickup trucks carrying more than 20 men — many of them apparently from other African countries in mismatched fatigues — arrived at the scene and started firing at protesters with small semiautomatic weapons. “It was an obscene amount of gunfire,” the witness reportedly said. “They were strafing these people. People were running in every direction.”
Libyan protesters and security forces battled for control of Tripoli's downtown overnight, with snipers opening fire and supporters of Gaddafi shooting from speeding vehicles, according to reports.
And in a sign of growing cracks within the government, senior officials — including the justice minister and members of the Libyan mission to the United Nations — reportedly broke with Gaddafi, whose whereabouts are unknown.
As EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to address the situation in Libya, they heard intelligence reports that the Gaddafi regime was close to collapse as the city of Benghazi — the second-largest city, where the revolt began and more than 200 have been killed — was falling to anti-government protesters.
Following the emergency meeting, Hague was asked if he knew whether Gaddafi had left Tripoli, according to the Telegraph.
“About whether Col. Gaddafi, is in Venezuela, I have no information that says he is although I have seen some information that suggests he is on his way there,” he reportedly said.
British officials stressed that Hague was referring “not to media reports but information from other channels.” “This is credible information,” a diplomat told the Telegraph.
However, a Telegraph source in the Venezuelan government denied the reports that Gaddafi was travelling to Venezuela to seek protection from his ally, President Hugo Chavez.
Protesters in Benghazi, meanwhile, reportedly issued a list of demands calling for a secular interim government led by the army in cooperation with a council of Libyan tribes.
Earlier Monday, Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, warned that the country faced a bloody civil war if anti-government protesters refused to accept offers of reform.
Bursts of gunfire were heard overnight for the first time in the capital since violence broke out six days ago in Libya's second-largest city, Benghazi, where a hospital reported some 50