TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya is preparing full-scale military action to crush its rebellion and will not surrender even if Western powers intervene in the conflict, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s most prominent son said on Thursday.
“It’s time for liberation. It’s time for action. We are moving now,” Saif al-Islam Gaddafi told Reuters in an interview.
Asked if the government would step up its military campaign, he said: “Time is out now. It’s time for action ... We gave them two weeks (for negotiations).”
Speaking in unusually tough language, the London-educated younger Gaddafi said Libya was confident of victory.
“We will never ever give up. We will never ever surrender. This is our country. We fight here in Libya,” said Saif al-Islam, who has been described as the Western-friendly face of Libya.
Libya has seen the bloodiest of the revolts against autocratic rule that have swept through the Arab world and toppled the long-ruling leaders in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.
“The French, the Europeans, they should talk to the Libyan people...If they want to support the militia, do it. But I tell you: you are going to lose. We will win,” Saif al-Islam said. “And we are not afraid of the American fleet, NATO, France, Europe. This is our country. We are here. We will die here.”
He added: “Libya is not a piece of cake. We are not a Mickey Mouse.”
Speaking at a Tripoli compound designed in the shape of a luxury tent, Saif al-Islam, 38, described rebels determined to end his father’s 41-year rule as terrorists and armed gangsters. He said thousands of Libyans had volunteered to fight them.
“Now it’s too late for them. We are so united, we are so strong. And Libya will be free and peaceful soon,” he said as Gaddafi supporters shouted defiant slogans in the background.
The Libyan leader has deployed troops, heavy weapons and tanks to crush the revolt which started in the east of the oil-producing north African nation three weeks ago.
“WE WILL FIGHT TO THE END”
As Saif al-Islam made his remarks, troops carried further counter-attacks deeper into the insurgent heartland.
Gaddafi has accused al Qaeda of fomenting the revolt and said foreign powers intent on stealing Libya’s oil were also involved in the unrest, which has drastically reduced its oil production.
Saif al-Islam said many Libyans were shocked with violence against civilians by what he called al Qaeda and armed gangs.
In one incident, he said one civilian had been killed, then his corpse was burned and heart cut out.
“We will not be tolerant. We will fight to the end. We will never ever surrender to these people,” said Saif al-Islam, wearing a sport jacket and jeans.
Despite Saif al-Islam’s tough line on the rebels, he seemed more flexible on the political front.
“We are more convinced and more determined to go toward democracy and freedom. I said this 10 years ago, myself, two years ago, last year, today and tomorrow,” he said.
“The target is the constitution so everything is legalized. My father said in public, that I don’t want to be the president of all of the country. We want to have a new structure, a new system, new parliament, new government, we have a draft ready.”
His push for reforms may face resistance from Libya’s top military brass which may not want to give up any ground during the biggest challenge to Gaddafi’s rule.
Asked about his father’s mood, Saif al-Islam said: ”Everybody is angry.
Editing by Angus MacSwan.