I will fight on, says Col Gaddafi

Libya’s fugitive ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi says he will continue to fight his enemies, in an audio message carried by a loyalist TV channel.

“The Libyan people cannot kneel, cannot surrender, we are not women,” he said in the message on the al-Rai channel.

Anti-Gaddafi forces encircling the city of Sirte have given loyalists an extra week to negotiate their surrender.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats are meeting in Paris for a major international conference on Libya’s future.

Col Gaddafi has not been seen in public for months, and it is not known where he is hiding.

Syria-based al-Rai broadcast an audio message from the colonel lasting about 10 minutes.

“People are fighting colonialism,” he said.

“There must be huge sacrifices for the sake of freedom, the traitors will come to an end and Nato now will collapse, and the traitors’ loyalty to Nato will collapse.”

The message ended abruptly and patriotic music faded in.

Algeria refuge

Al-Rai, based in Damascus, has repeatedly broadcast propaganda messages from the Gaddafis.

On Wednesday, it broadcast an audio message from the colonel’s son Saif al-Islam, who also pledged to fight on.

But another son, Saadi, said in a message played on a different channel that he was negotiating with the rebels to avoid bloodshed.

Correspondents say the Gaddafi inner circle appears to be divided, as forces loyal to the transitional government (NTC) close in on the last remaining towns and cities loyal to him.

Earlier in the week Col Gaddafi’s wife, two of his sons and his daughter fled to neighbouring Algeria.

And Algerian media reported that Col Gaddafi had also tried to seek refuge there.

According to a report in El Watan newspaper, the colonel tried to speak to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from the desert town of Ghadamis, just on the Libyan side of the border, but the Algerian leader refused to take the telephone call.

Anti-Gaddafi forces have encircled the city of Sirte – the colonel’s birthplace and the home of his tribe.

They had threatened to launch a full military assault on Saturday, but officials say they will allow loyalists another week to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

The NTC controls most of the country, after a dramatic assault on Tripoli last week in which the capital fell after an operation co-ordinated with Nato air strikes.

Assets unfrozen

Meanwhile in Paris, members of the NTC are due to meet senior international diplomats at the summit, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The NTC is likely to ask Western diplomats for their continued help in security matters, as well as their advice on a future transition to democracy.

Delegates are expected to discuss plans for the transition to democracy, for reconstruction and issues such as enhancing the training of police.

The NTC is expected to press for a further unfreezing of assets, but its delegates will also stress that it does not want any lessening of Nato support as it tries to quell the remaining loyalist pockets.

The EU announced on Thursday that it had lifted sanctions on 28 entities – including oil firms and port authorities – to help the NTC get the economy moving again. The decision will take effect on Friday.

The UK, US and France have unfrozen more than $5bn (£3bn) in Libyan assets this week, and other countries are making similar moves.

On the diplomatic front, Russia is the latest nation to agree to recognise the NTC as Libya’s legitimate government.

About 60 countries are attending the “Friends of Libya” forum in Paris on Thursday afternoon, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The meeting comes on the 42nd anniversary of Col Gaddafi’s emergence as the leader of the coup that overthrew King Idris.