Cairo/Washington, Feb 26: Libya's embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi had his back to the wall, with the unprecedented revolt for his ouster inching closer to Tripoli and the US slapping unilateral sanctions freezing his assets.
As the international community stepped up efforts to isolate his regime, an obdurate Gaddafi vowed to crush the rebellion against his 41-year rule and proposed to arm his supporters.
"We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people," he said in footage aired on Libyan state TV. "I am in the middle of the people.. we will fight ... we will defeat them if they want .. we will defeat any foreign aggression," said the 68-year-old Libyan ruler.
His address came as the violence flared up in his bastion Tripoli, with security forces loyal to Gaddafi firing indiscriminately on thousands of demonstrators after the Friday prayers yesterday.
Across Libya, protesters braced up for a potentially lengthy battle to overturn the regime, even as reports said that the Army in several areas had turned hostile to the government.
In his most aggressive action against Libya since the violence began, US President Barack Obama issued an executive order announcing unilateral sanctions on the country freezing the assets in America of Gaddafi, his family and loyalists.
"By any measure, Muammar el-Gaddafi's government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable," Obama said in a statement after he issued the executive order late last night.
"These sanctions therefore target the Gaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya," he said.
The executive order blocks the property and interests in property of a number of individuals, including four of Gaddafi's sons, officials of the Libyan government and those responsible for human rights violations in that country.
Libya's ambassador to the UN became the latest official to openly renounce the regime. Mohamed Shalgam, a childhood friend of Gaddafi, broke into tears after denouncing the leader and called for a "courageous resolution" from the Security Council to save Libya.
The envoy accused Gaddafi and his sons of giving Libyans an "either I rule you or I kill you" ultimatum. The US also suspended its military ties with Libya and closed down its embassy in Tripoli.
The action came minutes after a charter flight left Tripoli carrying the last Americans who wanted to leave Libya.
"It's clear that Colonel Gaddafi has lost the confidence of his people," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Al Jazeera said within Libya, demonstrations were gaining support, and footage believed to be filmed yesterday appeared to show soldiers in uniform joining the protesters.
It said following on the footsteps of the army commanders in the east, several military officials in the west were also beginning to turn against Gaddafi.
However, the protesters are worried over the presence of the Khamis Brigade, a special forces brigade loyal to the Gaddafi family that is equipped with sophisticated weaponry, and is still fighting anti-government forces. Several countries, including India, the US, Britain, and other European nations are evacuating their citizens in thousands from the chaos-hit country.
Fighting for control was on in several other cities, with reports from the town of Tajoura saying that live ammunition was being used against anti-government protesters. Several eastern cities have already fallen to the opposition, though Gaddafi has struggled hard to keep his hold over Tripoli.
The thousands of protesters, who defied the clampdown to take to the streets after the Friday prayers met with heavy gunfire and suffered several casualties in the capital.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, asked the powerful Security Council to take "concrete action" against Gaddafi's regime to stop the bloody crackdown against protesters, warning that any delay would add to the death toll which has already crossed 1,000.
"It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action," he said in his address to the 15-member body, including India, which held its second meeting on Libya in less than a week.
In New York, India and 14 other members of the Council agreed to hold yet another meeting to consider sanctions against the Gaddafi regime.
The UNSC meeting would consider a draft resolution, "including specific targeted measures aimed at putting an end to violence, helping achieve a peaceful solution to the current crisis, ensuring accountability and respecting the will of the Libyan people," its President for this month, Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, said.
Earlier, at a hastily called news conference at the UN, Libyan deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi described Gaddafi as a "madman" and warned that thousands would die in Tripoli because the Libyan leader would never flee and fight to the end.
Meanwhile, the 27-nation European Union has reached consensus on imposing tough sanctions against Libya and is expected to strike an agreement in this regard next week.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva unanimously passed a resolution recommending suspension of Libya from the body and decided to conduct an independent probe into violations by the Gaddafi regime.
The 47-nation body's recommendation to suspend Libya needs to be approved by a two-thirds majority at the 192-member United Nations General Assembly in New York. PTI