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Gadhafi gives audio address amid claims of rebel advances

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Libyan rebels advance on Zawiya
  • NEW: "Be ready to fight to liberate our pure and good land," Gadhafi says
  • Rebel field commander says they are clearing al-Zawiya of Gadhafi forces
  • NATO bombs Gadhafi tanks near the disputed city, the alliance says
  • CNN cannot confirm who controls disputed areas

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Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave a live audio address early Monday, urging supporters in Tripoli to "be ready to fight to liberate our pure and good land."

The address, which was also aired on Libyan state television, came hours after rebels claimed advances in a number of cities in western Libya, including al-Zawiya, the region's third-largest.

The government has denied the rebel claims.

"You are hearing from me even under shelling. There will be an end to the shelling, end to the (opposition), end to a defeated NATO, end to the donkeys in the Gulf and the Libyan people will remain," Gadhafi said. "(Go) to the front always, to the fights, to the weapons, to the battles to liberate Libya inch by inch from the traitors and NATO. Be ready to fight to liberate our pure and good land."

Rebel forces were fighting Gadhafi's troops Sunday for control of several western areas including al-Zawiya, which serves as a critical supply line to the west, rebels claimed Sunday.

Western rebel spokesman Col. Jumma Ibrahim said Sunday that rebel forces control most of the city.

Rebel field commander Adel al-Zintani told CNN his forces were "clearing the city of Gadhafi forces. There are minor clashes going on inside al-Zawiya," adding: "The situation is under control, but it will take some time to clear."

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Ibrahim said Sunday that rebels now claim a number of areas of the city including several neighborhoods, roads and a coastal area. Rebels are not in control of a stretch from al-Zawiya to Tunis, he said, but fighting is ongoing.

In a televised press conference Sunday, Musa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, denied the claims and said government forces have managed to halt rebel attacks in al-Zawiya.

"There was an attack yesterday on Zawiya from the south, but we stopped it, " Musa Ibrahim said.

"Today as well, a few hours ago, there was another attack on Zawiya. Greetings to the people of Zawiya, and the volunteers in Zawiya, who helped the armed people (Libyan military) and stop this attack courageously," the government spokesman said.

Al-Zintani strongly rejected the government's assertions of controlling al-Zawiya and other nearby cities such as Surman and Garyan, an essential supply route south of Tripoli.

"The next few days will prove him wrong," the rebel field commander said.

CNN has not been able to confirm independently who controls al-Zawiya, located about 33 miles west of Tripoli.

Earlier Sunday, rebels were also clashing with Gadhafi forces on the outskirts of the city of Surman, west of al-Zawiya, al-Zintani said, "and expect to be inside the city by this afternoon."

Col. Ibrahim said rebels now control a coastal road that leads west from al-Zawiya to the border post of Ras Jedeir, but that Gadhafi forces still control the post on the border with Tunisia.

...liberate Libya inch by inch from the traitors and the NATO
--Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi
  • Libyan Conflict
  • Libya
  • Tripoli
  • Moammar Gadhafi
  • NATO

Tunisia's state-owned Tataouine radio reported clashes between rebels and Gadhafi forces at Ras Jedeir, adding that rebels controlled a desert road from the border to al-Zawiya, while Gadhafi forces held the main coastal route.

NATO bombed two tanks near al-Zawiya on Saturday, the alliance said Sunday, on a day of 47 strikes against Gadhafi's military hardware around the country.

Targets included anti-aircraft guns, military vehicles and an ammunition storage facility, NATO said in a statement.

Sixty miles to Tripoli's south, rebels said Saturday that they captured the town of Garyan and pushed the Gadhafi forces to the south, cutting them off from the road to Tripoli. The soldiers left behind heavy artillery and ammunition, rebel field commander al-Zintani told CNN.

"We captured many anti-aircraft artillery vehicles, two full fuel tankers and 106 anti-tank piercing artillery and shells," he said.

The rebels have 95% control of Garyan and have surrounded a Gadhafi brigade inside a military camp inside Garyan," said Col. Ibrahim, the rebel military spokesman, on Saturday. Seven people were injured in the clashes, he said.

Al-Zintani said Sunday that some Gadhafi troops were still holding out in a hospital in the city, using human shields to make it hard for rebels to return fire. He said the Gadhafi forces were firing ammunition and shells at rebels from inside the hospital and a residence nearby.

Musa Ibrahim dismissed rebel allegations of taking Garyan as mere propaganda.

"In the city of Garyan, which is a mountainous city, some gangs enter the city and their goal is to create panic and confusion and declare fake victories, " he said. "There is nothing real to worry about, Garyan will be under our control within a few hours," he said.

CNN could not independently confirm the reports.

On Saturday, in the opposition-held port of Misrata, missile attacks by Gadhafi forces ended after rebels captured the nearby town of Tawargha, National Transitional Council spokesman Guma El-Gamaty told CNN. That city was being used by Gadhafi forces to launch missiles indiscriminately into Misrata, he said.

Rebels also took a crucial bridge that links Tawargha to Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown and loyal stronghold, he said.

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said government fighters had pushed the rebels away from Tawargha and back to Misrata.

Government spokesman Ibrahim also downplayed the rebel claims in other towns.

"Small groups of armed gangs, 50 here, 50 there, some attacked south of al-Zawiya, some attacked north of Garyan, and Tawargha, but they have very weak influence on the ground," government spokesman Musa Ibrahim told reporters. "The people's armed forces are dealing with them, they do not represent a real threat. Tripoli is safe."

He later noted that Gadhafi's forces are "very strong" and have the support of "thousands upon thousands" of armed volunteers.

"You have to remember we are very powerful," Ibrahim said. "The tens of thousands and tens of thousands of volunteers are armed right now. It doesn't matter whether NATO advances or not, whether rebels advance or not, because we will always be able to fight, in a year's time, in two years, in three years."

Five months into the Libyan war, the rebels have won international support in their effort to oust Gadhafi.

They have been aided by NATO airstrikes that began in March after the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution that ordered civilians be protected.

CNN's Kareem Khadder, Jomana Karadsheh, Amir Ahmed, Salma Abdelaziz, Kamal Ghattas and Yasmin Amer contributed to this report.

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