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Gaddafi defiant despite defections of top military and state officials (VIDEO)

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has vowed to die a "martyr" in a furious and lengthy speech on state TV.

Libya gaddafi tvEnlarge
A picture of a screen taken from the television on Feb. 22, 2011 shows Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi gesturing while delivering a nationwide address in Tripoli. Kadhafi says he will stay in Libya as head of revolution as world powers mobilized to try to halt the bloody showdown between protesters and his security forces suspected of "crimes against humanity" to keep him in power. (Joel Saget/Getty Images)

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has vowed to fight on and die a "martyr" in a furious and lengthy speech on state TV in which he called on his supporters to take back the streets from protesters demanding his ouster.

Gaddafi, clad in brown robes and a turban, spoke Tuesday from the entrance of a bombed-out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence, hit by U.S. air raids in the 1980s and left in disrepair as a monument.

"I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents ... I will die as a martyr at the end," he said. "Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down ... This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post."

"I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired ... when I do, everything will burn."

More officials defect to "February 17" revolution

In the latest high-ranking defection, Libyan Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al Abidi announced his support for the "February 17 revolution," Al Jazeera reported Tuesday night. The channel aired amateur video footage that showed Abidi at his desk reading a statement that also called on the Libyan army to join the people and support their "legitimate demands."

In an interview with the Al Arabiya television network, Younnes said, "I begged Gaddafi not to send planes, I called him. Now of course we don't speak, I have joined the revolution."

He added: "I gave orders to my men in Benghazi not to shoot protesters, not one of my men shot at protesters."

Speculating on whether Gaddafi will step down in the face of overwhelming protests, Younes said: "From my knowledge of Gaddafi, he won't leave; he will stay to the end, but he will stay alone."

Gen. Soliman Mahmoud al-Obeid, interviewed by Reuters in the eastern city of Tobruk, said he no longer stood with Gaddafi after hearing of orders to kill civilians in Benghazi, where he estimated 300 people had died.

"With respect to Gaddafi's speech, all of it was untrue. Gaddafi has not been trustworthy ... He bombs with airplanes and uses excessive force against unarmed people. I am sure he will fall in the coming few days."

Others who have resigned include the Libyan ambassadors to the U.S., India and Bangladesh.

Diplomats at Libya's U.N. mission sided with the revolt against Gaddafi and called on the Libyan army to help overthrow "the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi." In a statement, the mission's deputy chief and other staff said they were serving the Libyan people, demanded "the removal of the regime immediately" and urged other Libyan embassies to follow suit.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said Gaddafi had started a "genocide against the Libyan people."

GlobalPost reports from the Libya-Egypt border

Jon Jensen, reporting by phone for GlobalPost from Sallum on the Egypt-Libya border on Tuesday, said that border guards had opened the crossing to enable the sick and injured to enter Egypt.

The Egyptian military had set up a field hospital near the border crossing and was preparing for the worst.

He said the normally sleepy town of Sallum was bustling with activity, and Egyptian forces were allowing Egyptians and Libyans wounded in reportedly heavy fighting in the Eastern part of Libya to cross into Egypt.

Jensen spoke with several returnees who described a state of lawlessness with mainly anti-government forces in control and only pockets of fighters loyal to the regime.

"Everybody inside Libya has a gun. It's completely lawless," he quoted one as saying. "We're really happy to get back into Egypt because it's safer," said another, calling himself Ali Hussein. "There's no government [in Libya]."

The head of the hospital, Lt. Col. Raof Ezzat, told Jensen: "I prefer not to have to be ready but I'm expecting the worst."

Jensen said Egypt's Ministry of Health was also preparing for the worst, with 80 ambulances on call and 1,000 units of blood ready.

Libyan security forces are waging a bloody operation to keep Gaddafi in