Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi attempted to rally his supporters in a new audio tape broadcast Thursday on his sole remaining loyalist media outlet, the Syrian-based Arrai Oruba television channel. A video clip was made available on the YouTube self-broadcast Internet website.

Owner Mishan al-Juburi told reporters that Qaddafi is still in Libya, together with his son Saif al-Islam, his heir-apparent, noting that he communicates with the former Libyan leader without problems whenever necessary. “He is... in very good spirits, feels strong, is not afraid and would be happy to die fighting against the occupiers,” said Juburi, a former Iraqi parliamentarian in a telephone interview with the AFP news agency. “His son … is in the same state of mind.”

The tape was translated into English subtitles, possibly by the British-based Telegraph newspaper.

Qaddafi also contemptuously denied in the audio that he had fled the country to Niger or anywhere else, and vowed “never to leave the land of his ancestors.”

“To all the Libyan people, the Libyan land belongs to you,” Qaddafi said. “Those who are trying to take it away from you are outsiders, they are mercenaries. They are dogs. They are trying to take over the land, but that is impossible.

“These people used to be spies for the Italians and now they are working for France,” he continued. “They are spies for France and Britain. They are all germs and rats. They are not Libyans. They are working with NATO, with France and with Britain to bomb the Libyan people and Libya. Killing our children.

“Capture them,” he urged listeners. “The Libyan people are ready to defeat them. Helped by the resistance. The Libyan people reject them,” he insisted. “The youth in Tripoli and everywhere are ready to carry out attacks on the mercenaries. NATO will retreat, defeated. The Libyan people are marching in their millions, in the streets, in the cities. In the villages.

“Lastly, they say Col. Qaddafi has gone to Niger. How many times have convoys gone backwards and forwards across to Niger,” he said. “Smugglers and people crossing, also into Sudan, Chad, Mali and Algeria? It is not the first time that people come and go,” he said.

“It is as if this is the first time that a convoy has gone to Niger,” he added, his voice clearly rich with amusement as the tape faded out.

The comments came in response to a report by news media that Libya's new military government, the National Transitional Council (NTC) had requested that Niger prevent Qaddafi and his family from crossing into its territory.

“We have sent a delegation today that is going to Niger to talk... about securing our borders to stop any kind of infiltration of Qaddafi troops to Niger, to stop any attempt by Qaddafi or his family to escape to Niger,” said Fathi Baja, head of the NTC political affairs committee.

He did not refer to the fact that on Wednesday, NTC spokesman Anis Sharif told reporters that rebel forces had already surrounded the former Libyan strongman -- although Sharif was careful not to specify where the trap had been laid.

Speaking to reporters from the former rebel stronghold in Benghazi, Baja added the NTC was asking all neighboring countries to stop Qaddafi and his family from crossing their borders.

In response to reports of a convoy crossing in to Niger bearing money and gold, Baja said, “We don't know how much money this convoy was transporting, but according to what we [do] know... we can say that [witnesses] have seen money and gold in these cars. If that happened, we want that money back.”

A large convoy of civilian and military vehicles reportedly entered Niger late Monday, but Qaddafi was not believed to be among the passengers.

NTC and NATO forces continue meanwhile to attack Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Qaddafi and believed to be the last stronghold of his loyalists.

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