Gaddafi urges supporters to fight

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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addresses the nation in a TV broadcast in Tripoli (AP)

A defiant Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood” and roared at supporters to strike back against Libyan protesters to defend his embattled regime, signalling an escalation of the crackdown that has thrown the capital into scenes of mayhem, wild shooting and bodies in the streets.

The speech by the Libyan leader – who shouted and pounded his fists on the podium – was an all-out call for his backers to impose control over the capital and take back other cities.

The UN Security Council has condemned Mr Gaddafi’s crackdown on anti-government protesters and demanded an immediate end to the violence.

A press statement agreed to by all 15 council members expressed “grave concern” at the situation in Libya and condemned the violence and use of force against civilians. The Security Council called for an “immediate end to the violence” and steps to address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.

After a week of upheaval, protesters backed by defecting army units have claimed control over almost the entire eastern half of Libya’s 1,000-mile Mediterranean coast, including several oil-producing areas.

“You men and women who love Gaddafi … get out of your homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs.”

Celebratory gunfire by Mr Gaddafi’s supporters rang out in the capital of Tripoli after the leader’s speech, while in protester-held Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, people threw shoes at a screen showing his address, venting their contempt.

International alarm rose over the crisis, which sent oil prices soaring to the highest level in more than two years and sparked a scramble by European and other countries to get their citizens out of the North African nation.

As the violence in Libya intensifies, the effort to evacuate British nationals from the country has become increasingly urgent. Holidaymakers, workers and embassy staff are among those trying to leave.

The US State Department said it has chartered a ferry boat to evacuate Americans from Libya to Malta by sea. In a notice sent to US citizens in Libya, the department said Americans wishing to leave Libya should report to the As-shahab port in the capital of Tripoli with their passports.

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