Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi threatened to attack Europe in revenge for NATO's bombing campaign just as the African Union decided to ignore an ICC arrest warrant against the embattled strongman.
Gadhafi spoke from an unknown location
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Friday, July 1, threatened to launch attacks on Europe unless the Western military alliance NATO ends its more than three-month old bombing campaign on the country.
"We advise you to retreat before you face a catastrophe," Gadhafi said in an audio message played though loudspeakers to supporters gathered in Tripoli’s Green Square.
"If we decide to do so, we can move into Europe like locusts, like bees," he added in the address, which he delivered from an undisclosed location.
The Libyan leader also denounced a decision by the International Criminal court in The Hague to issue arrest warrants for him, his son Saif al-Islam and the head of the country’s intelligence service, Abdullah al-Sannoussi on allegations of crimes against humanity.
The ICC's chief prosecutor had asked the court to issue the warrants based on evidence that the suspects had ordered troops to fire on protesters during anti-Gadhafi protesters earlier this year.
AU not to act on arrest warrant
The ICC arrest warrants were reason for celebration among the rebels
However, as long as he remains in Africa, there appears to be no immediate danger of Gadhafi actually being arrested.
During a summit in Equatorial Guinea on Friday, African leaders were called on not to execute the arrest warrant out of fears that it could jeopardize efforts at a negotiated settlement to the stalemated conflict.
Niger's president, Mahamadou Issoufou said the 53 African Union member states "had been requested" not to act on the warrant.
According to a document drafted during the summit, the warrant "seriously complicates the efforts aimed at finding a negotiated settlement to the crisis in Libya, which also address, in a mutually reinforcing way, issues related to impunity and reconciliation."
This leaves open the possibility that Gadhafi could seek refuge somewhere on the continent.
Efforts to stop the fighting
South African President Jacob Zuma said the AU would launch peace talks
The AU also offered to host talks between the Libyan government and rebel forces over a post-conflict democratic transition, presenting the proposal to representatives of Gadhafi who attended the summit.
"We will very soon launch talks in Addis," said South African President Jacob Zuma, referring to the capital of Ethiopia where the African Union has its headquarters.
AU Commission chairman Jean Ping said that while the bloc supports the fight against legal impunity, it believes the ICC has unfairly singled out Africa.
"We are against the way justice is being rendered because … it looks as if this ICC is only interested in trying Africans," Ping told reporters.
Meanwhile, NATO appeared to be pressing on with its bombing campaign, which is officially meant to protect the lives of civilians in the country.
A couple of hours after the Libyan leader's defiant audio message, the Reuters news agency reported that three explosions had been heard in Tripoli and columns of black smoke was rising from the direction of Gadhafi's central compound.
Author: Spencer Kimball, Chuck Penfold (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac