Col Gaddafi denounced the new regime in Libya as a Nato-backed “charade” on Tuesday as its leadership basked in the approval of the United Nations and world leaders.
A desperate-sounding Col Gaddafi, whose main desert stronghold is now on the verge of falling to rebel forces, tried to claim in a message on a Syrian television station that the fall of his regime was a delusion.
“Do not rejoice and don’t believe that one regime has been overthrown and another imposed with the help of air and maritime strikes,” he said.
“The political system in Libya is a system based on the power of the people.
It is impossible that this system be removed.” Talk of toppling the “magnificent” regime “triggered laughter and sarcasm,” he added.
The rebel’s forces appeared on the verge of an important breakthrough as he made his speech. After being driven back from two northern towns remaining loyal to Col Gaddafi, Bani Walid and Sirte, a brigade of troops that had pushed into the far south seized Sabha airport on Monday and continued to move into the city itself on Tuesday, television footage suggested.
Sabha, which is 480 miles south of Tripoli, is the heartland of the Gaddafi tribe and most of those involved in the search for the former leader believe he was staying as recently as last week in farms nearby with a retinue of hundreds, perhaps thousands of men, including fell tribesmen.
If so, it is likely he has now been forced back towards the borders with Algeria and Niger. The whereabouts of his sons Saif al-Islam and Mutassim is unknown, though rebels say they believe the former was in Bani Walid until recently and that the latter may have been leading the defences in Sirte.
Buoyed by the increasing normality in the major cities, including Tripoli, the acting president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, attended the General Assembly of the United Nations where the green, red and black rebel flag was raised for the first time.
President Barack Obama said the Nato bombing campaign, which hit targets across the country on Monday including in Sabha, would continue.
“So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the Nato-led mission to protect them will continue,” he said. “And those still holding out must understand the old regime is over, and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya.”