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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.

power after fighting, which began on Feb. 14, spread to Tripoli from Libya's oil-producing east. Gaddafi has ruled Libya for 41 years.

But his grip on power appears to faltering. Several Libyan ambassadors, including those to the U.S. and the U.N., have said that they are siding with protesters and have called for Gaddafi to quit. Fighter pilots have refused orders to fire on protesters and two reportedly defected Monday, flying their jets to Malta. And a group of Libyan army officers has issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to "join the people" and help remove Gaddafi.

U.S. citizens trapped in Libya

The United States said it had not been able to move non-essential diplomats from Libya, as other governments sent airplanes and ships to pick up their citizens stranded by Libya's bloody unrest, according to VOA.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday the United States was looking at various ways to move the diplomats, their families and other Americans out of Libya. He did not elaborate on why the U.S. could not to do so on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the violence unleashed against Libyan protesters was "completely unacceptable" and that the United States will take "appropriate steps" to deal with the situation.

The Netherlands and France have confirmed that their planes received permission to land in the city of Tripoli, but Agence France-Presse reported that one of France's three planes has been diverted to Malta.

Meanwhile, Britain announced it had redeployed a warship closer to Libya to aid in the evacuation effort. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Royal Navy warship HMS Cumberland had been put on standby.

U.N. Security Council meets

The U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors on Tuesday, with Western nations pressing for a strong statement on the violence in Libya.

"There is even more concern after what was a very worrying speech by Muammar Gaddafi," said one diplomat according to Agence France-Presse.

Gaddafi vowed to crush protests amid fears of hundreds killed in a bloody clampdown by his regime.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said earlier that the council would discuss whether to establish a “no-fly zone” around the country to prevent mercenaries and arms from going to the government, Bloomberg reported.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Tuesday that Libya's attacks on protesters may amount to crimes against humanity. In a statement, Pillay called for the immediate halt to human rights violations and denounced the reported use of machine guns, snipers and military planes against civilians, Reuters reported. "Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity," said Pillay, a former United Nations war crimes judge.

But Libya's U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham arrived separately from his deputy ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has demanded that the Security Council order a no-fly zone over Libya,

"Gaddafi is my friend. I can criticize him but I cannot attack him," Shalgham told reporters. "He is very brave."

Warplanes attack in Tripoli

In Tripoli, resident Adel Mohamed Saleh said in a live Al Jazeera broadcast late Monday: "Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead. Anyone who moves, even if they are in their car, they will hit you."

Meanwhile, two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta on Monday and their pilots have asked for political asylum. The pilots claimed to have defected after refusing to follow orders to attack civilians protesting in Benghazi in Libya.

The pilots, who said they were colonels in the Libyan air force, were being questioned by authorities. Meanwhile, a group of Libyan army officers has issued a statement urging fellow soldiers to "join the people" and help remove Muammar Gaddafi. The officers urged the rest of the Libyan army to march to Tripoli.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Tuesday that the organization has halted Libya's participation in all Arab League sessions, Al Jazeera reported.

Markets plunge

Libya's escalating political crisis sparked a sharp sell-off in U.S. stocks Tuesday, with the three major indexes posting their biggest one-day drops of the year, as oil prices continued to skyrocket.

Global oil prices surged on Monday, prompting several international energy companies to remove their employees or shut down production in the oil-rich North African country.

All Libyan ports — including Zawia, Tripoli, Benghazi and Misurata — had been closed, traders in the country said.

Italian oil and gas company Eni SpA said Tuesday it had suspended some of its Libyan production, including the Greenstream pipeline that supplies about 10 percent of Italy's natural gas needs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Spanish oil company Repsol YPF said Tuesday it was suspending operations in the country. 

China expressed concern Tuesday about the safety of Chinese citizens and businesses in Libya after one of its construction companies was reportedly looted and its workers run off by gunmen.