March 17, 2011 / 9:31 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Libyan rebel head defiant after Gaddafi threat

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CAIRO, March 17 (Reuters) - Libyan rebels will stand firm and will not be deterred by threats made by Muammar Gaddafi, the head of the rebel council said on Thursday after the Libyan leader threatened to attack Benghazi where the council is based.

Gaddafi said his armed forces were going to the rebel capital Benghazi on Thursday night and would not show any mercy to fighters who resisted them.

“We stand on firm ground. We will not be intimidated by these lies and claims,” Libyan National Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al Jazeera television.

“We will not settle for anything but liberation for this country’s people from this regime,” he said. “Our rebels and their determination are capable of defeating them.”

The rebels had moved westward from their stronghold of Benghazi earlier this month, but over the past 10 days or so have been rolled back as a series of coastal towns, several with oil terminals, were retaken by Gaddafi’s better equipped forces.

Fighting has raged in Ajdabiyah, which stands at the gateway to the east with roads leading north to Benghazi or a desert route to Tobruk, the last major oil terminal still in rebel control.

“Libyan cities from Ajdabiyah and all of the east are under rebel control,” Abdel Jalil said.

He was speaking before the U.N. Security Council voted on a resolution that would open the way for air strikes. The resolution is backed by Western powers, including the United States which changed its earlier cautious tack and now backs tough action.

“We welcome any decision coming from the international community because of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and to stop this genocide, to stop this ruler who wants to govern by force or to kill his own people,” Abdel Jalil said.

“A no-fly zone will not be enough, there have to be air strikes of some strategic areas and ... entry on the ground,” he said. (Reporting by Dina Zayed; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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