Ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi promised “a long, long drawn-out war” against rebels, even as they prepared to attack one of his last remaining strongholds.
“The people will not allow you to take the oil and rob Libya’s wealth that God has endowed Libya with,” Gaddafi said in an audio message, according to the BBC.
Rebels control most of Libya, and Gadhafi and his staunchest allies have been on the run since the fall of the capital of Tripoli late last month. Loyalists have entrenched themselves in several towns, including besieged Bani Walid.
Thousands of rebel fighters are surrounding Bani Walid, with the closest forces about 10 miles from the town center. Rebels say they tried to negotiate a peaceful surrender but accused Bani Walid tribal leaders of stalling.
A rebel commander, Mohammed al-Fassi, said Sunday that "the negotiations are over." Rebels said they would launch their assault later Sunday.
Meanwhile, the defiant Gadhafi insisted that 2,000 tribes are ready to defend Libya, the BBC reported.
“Prepare yourselves for a gang and guerrilla war, for urban warfare, and popular resistance in every town to defeat the enemy everywhere,” he said.
Gaddafi reportedly declared that his hometown of Sirte is the new Libyan capital. Sirte remains in loyalist hands.
After negotiations for the peaceful surrender of the city of Bani Walid collapsed, Al Jazeera reported that troops loyal to the transitional leadership will launch an attack within 24 hours, the Doha-based satellite television station reported.
Libyan National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil had vowed Saturday that its forces will pressure the cities of Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha until they give up while continuing to supply them with humanitarian aid.
Since rebels captured Tripoli in late August, transitional authorities have been trying to restore stability, consolidate military gains and capture Qaddafi. More than six months of fighting to end the Libyan leader’s 42-year rule have reduced oil production and disrupted power supplies in the country with Africa’s largest crude reserves.
‘We are by the grace of God in a position of strength, capable of entering any city,” Jalil told reporters in Benghazi. The Misrata Military Council said it deployed its most powerful unit, the 500-man Halbus Brigade, around Bani Walid and it has observed that pro-Qaddafi defensive positions have been abandoned.
British aircraft struck nine weapons and ammunition sites near Sirte, Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Nick Pope said in an emailed statement today.
Libya’s new leadership has extended by a week to Sept. 10 the deadline for Qadhafi loyalists in his hometown of Sirte to surrender. Qadhafi vowed to fight on and turn the country “into a hell” in an audio recording broadcast by Syria-based Arrai satellite television.
The new leaders anticipate restoring oil output “within a reasonable time.” The pace of restoring production rests on how soon oil companies return their workers, said Ahmed Jehani, minister for reconstruction in the transitional administration.
Companies with major investments in Libya include Italy’s Eni SpA, France’s Total SA and Marathon Oil Corp. of the U.S., as well as Occidental Petroleum Corp., ConocoPhillips and Hess Corp.
Libyan oil production slumped to 60,000 barrels a day in July from 1.7 million barrels in January, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
There was little damage to infrastructure, Jehani said in an interview, and most of the required work involves restoring pressure to wells and cleaning sludge out of pipelines and storage facilities.
“Many of our fields are concessions held by international companies, so they are the ones that have to do the work,” Jehani said. “We can’t do it for them. It depends on how fast they deploy back to the country.”
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, the largest buyer of Libya’s energy output, this week said that Eni is aiming to re-open a gas pipeline between the two countries by Oct. 15.
Jalil said the NTC would move its headquarters to Tripoli from Benghazi, and pledged to hold presidential and legislative elections within 20 months, according to Agence France-Presse.
While opposition supporters now control most of Libya, Qadhafi has avoided capture. The former rebels believe he may be in one of their three key targets: the coastal city of Sirte, 280 miles southeast of Tripoli, Bani Walid, which lies 90 miles southeast of Tripoli, or Sabha, home to a major military base about 400 miles south of the capital.
Jehani said he expected oil production to return to pre-war levels “within a reasonable time,”
Crude oil fell on concerns fuel consumption will drop in the world’s largest economy. Crude oil for October delivery settled down $2.48, or 2.8 percent, to $86.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Aref Ali Nayed, the operations coordinator for the National Transitional Council’s stabilization team, said in a press conference that Eni and at least four other oil companies have sent advance teams to the country. He wouldn’t name the others.
Restoring output “could be faster than some people think,” Jehani said.
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