"Let Libya burn!"
So declared fugitive strongman Muammar Qaddafi from hiding in Thursday, vowing to fight and saying the tribes that remain loyal to him are preparing for a "long battle."
Qaddafi's threats come just hours after rebels extended the surrender deadline for loyalists in his hometown of Sirte in hopes a peaceful end can be negotiated.
Qaddafi's audio statement was broadcast by Syrian-based Al-Rai TV just as rebels claimed they were closing in on the former dictator. His voice was recognizable, and Al-Rai has previously broadcast several statements by Qaddafi and his sons.
Rebels have been hunting for the Libyan leader since he was forced into hiding after they swept into Tripoli on August 20 and gained control of most of the capital after days of fierce fighting.
In Thursday's message, Qaddafi said the tribes in Sirte and Bani Walid are well-armed and "there is no way they will submit." He warned, "We are not women - we will keep fighting!"
But the rebels, who have effectively ended Gaddafi's rule, insist the fight is going in their favor.
Meanwhile, Libya's new leaders gathered with their foreign allies in Paris to coordinate the emergence of a post-Qaddafi government in Tripoli.
Some participants - especially European nations amid a sovereign debt crisis - are jostling for a share in lucrative postwar contracts in the wealthy North African oil and gas producing state.
The European Union announced Thursday announced that it is lifting its sanctions on Libyan ports, banks and energy firms in order to kick-start the North African country's economy.
But many observers, skeptical of European motives - especially with so much money on the table - question just who the essentially unknown rebel caretaker government in Tripoli truly represent