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On Tunisia’s Border, Preparations Begin for Gadhafi’s Fall, Chaos in Libya

February 25, 2011 at 6:03 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: It was a day of confrontation and more killing in Tripoli, Libya. Pro-government militias opened fire as protesters poured out of Friday prayers. Witnesses reported at least four people were killed. By evening, Moammar Gadhafi was seen again on state television, urging followers to defend the nation.

We begin with a report from John Ray of Independent Television News in Tunisia.

JOHN RAY: After days of protests and bloody reprisals, Colonel Gadhafi conjured up crowds of supporters in the center of his capital.

The time is coming when I will arm you all,” he told them. “Libya will become a red flame” — all this just a few miles from the suburbs, where opponents crying “God is great” set out to bring down the leader who symbolizes to so many the very devil himself.

There followed the lethal and familiar response. But this was just one of several demonstrations getting ever closer to the heart of the regime. Whether he is kidding or really is this confident, the wink from Gadhafi’s son speaks of a ruling family now certain there can be no escape.

SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, son of Moammar Gadhafi: Plan A is to live and die in Libya. Plan B is to live and die in Libya. Plan C is to live and die in Libya.

JOHN RAY: The past 24 hours have seen rebellions encircle the Capitol. In Misurata, they hung a noose around a poster of Gadhafi and trampled his image underfoot.

To the south, in Gharyan, they chanted “Libya’s free and Gadhafi’s out,” though nighttime saw his forces counterattack, the same story at Tajura to the east, more gunfire in clashes that have claimed an unknown number of lives, among them, scores dead in Az Zawiyah, where they tended their injured in a mosque that withstood an onslaught by Gadhafi’s troops.

At the border, thousands of foreign workers queue to leave the green flag of Gadhafi far behind. But we met one Libyan heading the other way, desperate to get home.

MAN: They are — they are killing the women and the children even down their — their houses.

JOHN RAY: Edres Bufayed was imprisoned, then banished by Gadhafi. Now he’s certain the dictator has just days left.

EDRES BUFAYED: Maximum, next Friday, you will — everything will finish, I think. He is now very weak, in very difficult situation.

JOHN RAY: They are preparing here for casualties and a humanitarian crisis, even though the fighting is still many miles over the border. They are ready for Gadhafi’s fall and the chaos that might ensue.

Close by, a fleet of ambulances is parked up, and emergency medical supplies have been stockpiled.

JIM LEHRER: Later, one of Gadhafi’s son said there could be a negotiated cease-fire in two western towns by tomorrow. He claimed government troops are holding back from attacking rebels there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Several hundred Americans and other foreigners finally reached Malta today. Their ferry had been stuck in Tripoli for three days because of choppy seas.

And a chartered plane with U.S. diplomats and relatives left Tripoli as well. With that, the American Embassy suspended operations. To the east, hundreds of Chinese workers and others boarded Greek ocean liners in Benghazi. Bad weather delayed their sailing, but they were expected in Crete tomorrow.

There were also new departures from Libya’s diplomatic corps, as the country’s U.N. delegation in Geneva defected.

ADEL SHALTUT, Libyan delegate to the United Nations (through translator): I confirm to you that we at the Libyan Mission have strongly decided to be representatives of the Libyan people and its free will. We shall not represent anyone else. We shall be the voice of this great and heroic people at this council and all international assemblies.

JIM LEHRER: Libya’s delegation to the Arab League also renounced Gadhafi today. And opposition forces in Benghazi celebrated that city’s liberation.  

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Gadhafi has lost any claim to legitimacy. He said the U.S. is going ahead with unspecified sanctions. And he defended the pace of the president’s response.

U.S. PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: There has never been a time when this much has been done this quickly. The United States has acted in concert with our international partners and with great deliberation and haste.

JIM LEHRER: The U.N. Security Council met this afternoon to consider possible sanctions against the Gadhafi regime. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged concrete action, and he said any delay will mean more loss of life.

And NATO’s decision-making council held an emergency session, but announced it would not intervene in Libya.