Gadhafi vows to push ahead with resistance

Fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi accused revolutionary forces of surrendering Libya to foreign influence and vowed to press ahead with his resistance in a message issued hours after an attack on a oil facility by loyalist fighters.

China endores new Libyan rule

Fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi accused revolutionary forces of surrendering Libya to foreign influence and vowed to press ahead with his resistance in a message Monday issued just hours after a twin attack on a key oil facility by loyalist fighters.

At least 15 attackers were killed, an anti-Gadhafi commander said.

"We will not be ruled after we were the masters," said the brief statement attributed to Gadhafi that was read on Syria's Al-Rai TV by its owner Mishan al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi lawmaker and Gadhafi supporter.

China endorses power change

China has officially recognized the National Transitional Council of Libya as the ruling authority in Libya, China's Xinhua reported Monday.

A statement from Foreign Ministry said that China respects the choices of the Libyan people and "officially recognized the National Transition Council (NTC) of Libya as the ruling authority and representative of the Libyan people."

The statement added that China hopes all signed treaties and agreements previously made with Libya will remain in effect.

China is the last member of the UN Security Council to recognize the National Transitional Council after Moammar Gadhafi was ousted.

China previously criticized the NATO-led air campaign against Gadhafi's forces and refused to condemn the dictator. It is a big investor in Libya, with 26 Chinese companies taking on an estimated $20 billion in business.

The message described the opposition forces as "traitors" who are willing to turn over Libya's oil riches to foreign interests.

"We will not hand Libya to colonialism, once again, as the traitors want," said the statement, which pledged to fight against the "coup."

The firebrand words by Gadhafi contrast sharply with the staggering losses for his regime in recent weeks, including being driven from the capital Tripoli and left with only a handful of strongholds that are surrounded by former rebel forces.

Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown, but his followers claim he is still in Libya. Some of his family members have fled to neighboring Niger, most recently his son.

Raises pressure on Niger

Gadhafi's playboy son, known for his love of fast cars, soccer and excessive partying, slipped into Niger over the weekend and began making his way Monday to the capital, a Niger government official said.

The 38-year-old al-Saadi Gadhafi is one of the highest-profile former regime figures to flee to this landlocked African nation whose immense northern desert has been a haven for drug smugglers, al-Qaida terrorists and now fleeing Libyan loyalists.

The discovery is bound to raise pressure on Niger which has promised to turn over anyone wanted by the International Criminal Court which includes Gadhafi and a different son.

The country, however, has not said whether they will turn over other regime figures, like al-Saadi, who are wanted by Libya's new interim government but are not the subject of a warrant by the world court. Meanwhile, Gadhafi remains deeply popular here, where he built dozens of mosques.

Niger appears to have become the only exit for members of Gadhafi's inner circle. After the ruler's wife and several of his other children crossed into Algeria, that border was sealed.

Al-Saadi, one of Gadhafi's sons, has moved in Niger and is making his way towards the capital, Niger officials said. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

Niger's border with Libya is vast and impossible for the country's ill-equipped and cash-strapped army to monitor. Since last week, waves of convoys carrying regime officials have drifted across the invisible line set on undulating dunes. They include other top regime figures like Gadhafi's chief of security and the general in charge of the country's southern command.

The arrival of al-Saadi takes it to a new level of intimacy, indicating that even the ruler's family is choosing Niger as their best option.

"Nobody called us to tell us that these people were coming," government spokesman Morou Amadou told The Associated Press by telephone on Monday. "We intercept them as they are making their way south and they run into our patrols. We are allowing them to enter on humanitarian grounds since we cannot send them back to a war zone."

The arrival of the son also raised speculation that Gadhafi may eventually be headed to Niger. "There are strong suggestions that he is going to be convoyed here," said an immigration official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Last week, the U.S. urged Niger to detain any individuals who may be subject to prosecution in Libya, and to confiscate their weapons and impound any state property, such as money or jewels, that were illegally taken out of the country. Amadou said that al-Saadi, who was traveling in a nine-person convoy, was asked to hand over his weapons.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Gadhafi regime members are fleeing with cash and gold looted from the nation's banks.

Gadhafi supporters could strike back

Although Gadhafi's opponents now hold sway over most of Libya — and remain backed by NATO airstrikes — there are signs that the Libyan strongman's backers can still strike back.

At the important oil terminal at Ras Lanouf, suspected loyalist staged back-to-back attacks that began with saboteurs setting fires and then shifted to a convoy of gunmen riding in from the desert.

Col. Hamid al-Hasi, the commander for anti-Gadhafi forces in eastern Libya, said a group of 15 employees set fire to the facility, located on the Mediterranean coast about 615 kilometres southeast of Tripoli. He said five of the saboteurs were killed and the rest arrested.

In a possibly coordinated attack, the port was then targeted by a convoy of armed men apparently based in a refugee camp about 30 kilometres south of Ras Lanouf. One revolutionary commander, Fadl-Allah Haroun, said a total of 15 people were killed in both attacks.

The size of the ground assault force was unclear, but Haroun said it may have been as big as 40 vehicles.

Former rebels, meanwhile, have been facing stiff resistance from Gadhafi supporters in Bani Walid since last week and have captured most of the northern half of the town, which is one of three significant remaining bastions of Gadhafi's loyalists.

Mubarak al-Saleh, an opposition political envoy from Bani Walid, claimed Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam is leading loyalist forces massed in the town, about 140 kilometres southeast of Tripoli.

"The forces are not from Bani Walid but from all over Libya," he said. "We lost many people in the battle."

Families flee in anticipation of assaults

Dozens of cars loaded with Libyan families and personal belongings streamed out of the town in anticipation of a fresh assault. 

"The fighting will be very bad," said Fadila Salim as she drove out of Bani Walid. Her husband, Mohammed Ibrahim, said there is no electricity, no water and shops are running out of food. He says many are "stuck in their houses and afraid to leave."

The main battle front in Bani Walid is now a bridge that links the town with the port city of Misrata to the northwest. Gadhafi loyalists have covered the pavement with oil slicks and fuel spills to hinder vehicles trying to cross into the city center.

A rebel commander, Abu Ouejeila al-Hbeishi, said Gadhafi snipers have taken up positions on roof tops, including on a hotel, an ancient castle and an administrative building in the town center. Loyalist forces also fired Grad rockets and mortars at revolutionary fighters on the northern edge of Bani Walid, where al-Hawaishi said some 2,000 former rebels have gathered.

NATO, which has played a key role in crippling Gadhafi's military forces since intervening in Libya's civil war in late March, has kept up its attacks on remaining pro-Gadhafi sites. The military alliance said its warplanes hit targets Sunday in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, including a military logistics facility and three surface-to-air missile systems.

The Misrata Military Council said clashes inside Sirte between Gadhafi loyalists and opposition backers has left at least three people dead.

With files from the Associated Press