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New Violence Grips Libya, Diplomats Meet in Geneva

February 28, 2011 at 6:34 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: World powers moved today to tighten the screws on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. As they did, new protests broke out in and around Tripoli, and government security forces rushed in to disperse them.

But Gadhafi, in an interview with ABC News, refused to acknowledge there were any protests in Tripoli.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, Libyan leader: They love me. All my people with me, they love me, all.  

QUESTION: But if they do love…

MOAMMAR GADHAFI: They will die to protect me, my people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have more on the situation inside Tripoli from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News. He’s now in the Libyan capital city.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In a suburb of Libya’s capital, an extraordinary act of defiance: Their leader of the last 41 years is torn to shreds and trampled underfoot. Then the flag of Col. Gadhafi’s revolution is set alight.

This is Madura, a dirt-poor district where they want another revolution now. Parts of Madura are now beyond government control, though from a distance, plainclothed security men are keeping watch.

Last night, there was an attempt to remove all the anti-Gadhafi graffiti, but by this afternoon, it was back.

What the people here are telling us is that the man they’re burying was shot in the head during demonstrations on Friday, and that he died of his wounds last night. And this funeral is evidence of the revolt against Col. Gadhafi being within the city of Tripoli itself, within the capital.

And what people here are telling us is that they want the international community to do something to help them. They say Col. Gadhafi is crazy. They don’t know what he’s going to do next. They’re worried he will kill and kill and kill just to save his regime.

MAN: He doesn’t care how many people will kill — just himself. He wants himself in the — in his position and control Libya.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Their fear seems even more justified by these pictures of Saif Gadhafi, the colonel’s son, clutching an assault rifle. The video is believed to have been recorded yesterday. Mr. Gadhafi is on top of a vehicle and rallying his supporters.

At Tripoli’s banks, the government is handing out not weapons, but money, $400 a family, what one man called Gadhafi’s last roll of the dice to keep his people on side, though support for the colonel is genuine. Many here have never known anyone else in charge.

Do you believe the news that lots of Libya has gone out of the control of Gadhafi?

MAN: Well, I don’t think so. I don’t think so, because all of the Libyans love Moammar Gadhafi.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: All of them?

MAN: All of them, yes.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The government spokesman has the same message: that there has been no reckless violence against civilians, but that hundreds of thousands could die in a civil war provoked, he says, by Islamist militants and the West.

MUSSA IBRAHIM, Libyan government spokesman: The Islamists love chaos, because they thrive on disorder and want to have their Mediterranean Afghanistan in Libya half-an-hour away from Europe.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Yet, this afternoon, these graffiti artists on the outskirts of Tripoli gave us a very different message: that they have been shot at by their own government and that Gadhafi must go.

JEFFREY BROWN: In his ABC interview today, Gadhafi laughed when he was asked if he would step down voluntarily.

And 30 miles away, a large pro-government force massed near the town of Zawiyah with tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Farther east, opposition forces in Misurata fought off new attacks by troops loyal to Gadhafi. The Libyan government also announced it would send an envoy to Benghazi now held by rebels with a shipment of food and medicine.  

JUDY WOODRUFF: On the international front, the European Union approved an arms embargo and other sanctions against the Gadhafi regime. The U.S. military began moving air and naval forces closer to Libya.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called for enforcing a no-fly zone against Libyan planes.

And in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said all options are on the table, from no-fly zones to war crimes prosecutions.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Col. Gadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern. And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Gadhafi to go — now, without further violence or delay.

JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. Treasury also announced it had frozen at least $30 billion in Libyan assets since last week. And U.S. aid teams were heading to Libya’s borders with Egypt and Tunisia. An estimated 100,000 people have been streaming into those regions in recent days. So far, Egyptian and Tunisian authorities have provided them with shelter and food.