forces shot dead at least two protesters in the Libyan capital Tripoli on
Friday, television stations reported, as a popular uprising against Muammar
Gaddafi closed in on his main power base.
Gaddafi appeared on the central
Green Square to make an impassioned speech of defiance, after witnesses
described swirling clashes on streets all around the city between security
forces loyal to the 68-year-old leader and crowds of protesters.
He defiantly told his supporters
that he and his government would face down the uprising in the country.
“This is the people that
brought Italy to its knees,” he said, referring to the overthrow of
Libya’s colonial rulers. “I am amid the masses, and we shall fight, and we
shall defeat them.”
As his supporters waved green
flags, the symbol of Col Gaddafi’s rule, he said: “Life without dignity
has no value; life without green flags has no value. Sing, dance and prepare
Earlier, state TV said the
government would give each family $400 to cover increased food costs, while
some public sector workers would receive a pay rise of 150 per cent.
However, much of Libya is now in
the hands of anti-government forces, and the UN World Food Programme says
Libya’s food supply chain is at risk of collapse because imports have not been
getting into the country and food distribution is hampered by violence.
Fighting has raged for the past
week outside the capital between anti-government forces and troops and
militiamen loyal to Col Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years.
The United Nations has said reports
from Libya indicate thousands may have been killed or injured.
In the capital on Friday, witnesses
reported that protesters streamed out of a mosque in central Tripoli after the
end of prayers at lunchtime
They were confronted by a force of
troops and militiamen who opened fire on them in the Souq al-Jomaa area as they
headed towards Green Square.
Snipers on rooftops are also said
to have fired on the marchers.
Nato ambassadors are currently
holding emergency talks on the situation in Libya, but Secretary General Anders
Fogh Rasmussen says the Western military alliance has no intention of