Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Libyan Government Says It Will Fight for Years to Protect Sovereignty

Despite seize of Gadhafi complex, regime says it can fight for years

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Claiming rebels controlled 90% of the country and were days away from "a new Libya," the rebel government said it is planning to move many of its key ministries to the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Wednesday.

But Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's regime slammed the notion that the battle was over.

Two Arabic networks aired an audio message purportedly from Gadhafi that called upon all Libyans "to clear the city of Tripoli and eliminate the criminals, traitors and rats."

"They are hiding between the families and inside the civilian houses," the message said. "It's your duty to enter these houses and take them out."

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the message.

Hours earlier, Gadhafi spokesman Musa Ibrahim struck an equally defiant tone when he said government forces have the power to fight in Tripoli "not just for months -- for years."

"We will turn Libya into a volcano of lava and fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents," Ibrahim said in a phone call to satellite news channels, according to Reuters.

Pro-Gadhafi forces held out pockets of resistance in Tripoli on Wednesday. They fully controlled the airport but were struggling to control an area east of it. The unexpected resistance caused them to speculate that loyalists could be protecting a high-profile figure in the vicinity.

Gadhafi forces also maintained control at the Rixos Hotel -- where international journalists are trapped. A day earlier, bullets were fired into the windows of the hotel.

On the other hand, rebels celebrated their most significant catch yet with the capture of Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound Tuesday.

The compound, formerly the heart of the Gadhafi regime, had been damaged in recent weeks by repeated NATO airstrikes. Rebels said they had captured some of Gadhafi's forces inside the compound following an hours-long siege.

But neither Gadhafi nor any of his family members were found at Bab al-Aziziya.

Mahmoud Shammam, the information for the rebel government the National Transitional Council, said it didn't matter where Gadhafi was.

"In a few hours, maximum a few days, we have a new Libya, a new, liberated Libya," he said Tuesday.

A senior NATO official said the war was "not over yet, although it's close. We continue to watch for flare-ups from around the country, where there are still going to be pockets of resistance. We are also watching the chemical weapons and Scud missiles to make sure they are not used in the endgame."

A growing number of foreign countries are recognizing the rebels' National Transitional Council as Libya's rightful government.

On Wednesday, South Korea said the NTC is "the legitimate governing authority representing the Libyan people." The South Korean government said it plans to deliver humanitarian aid worth $1 million.

Shammam said the release of money that has been frozen in international banks will be critical to the rebels' ultimate success. "We need to provide ourselves with a lot of necessities and we cannot do this without money," he said.

"Please, please, please, let the international community know -- we are hungry for freedom, we are hungry for democracy, we are hungry for a state of law and order and we would like everybody, everybody everywhere in Arab countries and in the international community to support us and help us to get that."

CNN's Matthew Chance, Arwa Damon, Jomana Karadsheh, Kareem Khadder, Raja Razek and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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