North African ruler stops gas exports to Italy
Libyan president Muammar Qaddafi vowed to continue fighting protestors, despite more than 300 deaths reported so far, and to die a martyr in his first televised address broadcast on state television on 22 February.
In an often incoherent speech, Qaddafi described himself as “the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down … This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post.”
His speech follows similar ominous words from his son, Saif al-Islam to “fight to the last bullet”, which suggests even more violence. Helicopter gunships have already been deployed in the capital, Tripoli.
Both alluded to western-backed consipiracies and the threat of an Islamist government replacing his rule. “You know you rats and the cockroaches on the streets causing all these problems, you are fighting to put lice-infested bearded men in power, that’s who will replace me if I go, you want that you rats?” said Qaddafi.
During Saif al-Islam’s broadcast, he said the Libyan regime was prepared to make some “radical” reforms, although he did not state what this would entail. Qaddafi has also offered a new constitution.
The Libyan interior minister, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, resigned his post just hours after Qaddafi’s televised speach, joining a growing number of government officials and ambassadors to quit since the uprising began in mid-February (MEED 22:2:11).
Gas supplies to Libya’s biggest trade partner, Italy via the 370-mile long undersea Greenstream pipeline, have been halted, AFP news agency reports. Operated by Italy’s Eni, supplies have been suspended along with the company’s operations in Libya.
There are 13 major international oil companies working in Libya in various capacities. ENI is evacuating all non-essential international staff. Spain’s Repsol has also halted production in Libya and the UK’s BP has suspended its planned onshore drilling preparations.