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Libyan TV broadcasts message from Gadhafi

By the CNN Wire Staff
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What Libyan rebel leaders want from U.S.
  • NEW: Gadhafi thanks supporters and condemns NATO airstrikes
  • Italian official had suggested that Libyan leader may be injured
  • A top Libyan leader is in Washington to push for U.S. recognition
  • The White House stops short of formal recognition of Transitional National Council

Washington (CNN) -- The voice of embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi was heard on Libyan TV on Friday in an attempt to assure his people that he is alive and in a place where "you cannot kill me."

The audio message was broadcast several times over the course of the day and expressed gratitude to people around the world who were concerned for his safety.

"Tell the crusader cowards that I live in a place you cannot reach me," Gadhafi said.

Libya's combative leader also condemned Thursday's attack that reportedly killed three people. Gadhafi left this message to NATO: "I live in the hearts of millions, and even if you kill my body, you cannot kill my soul that lives in the hearts of millions."

Libya's expat freedom fighters train
  • Libya
  • Moammar Gadhafi
  • NATO
  • United States

The audio message was released after the Italian foreign minister raised the possibility that the Libyan leader may have been injured after weeks of NATO airstrikes in the country.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he did not have any evidence as to Gadhafi's fate, but Monsignor Giovanni Martinelli, the Catholic archbishop of Tripoli, told him that Gadhafi was wounded, the Italian ANSA news agency reported. Martinelli said Gadhafi was most likely not in Tripoli anymore, Frattini said.

However, Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim said Friday that Ghadafi was in "good health and high spirits" in Tripoli.

Four rockets struck Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound Thursday and killed at least three people, according to a Libyan government official. The Libyan government took journalists near the site of the blast, where smoke could be seen still rising from the compound.

NATO military spokesman Mike Bracken said NATO had struck a command and control center but did not know whether anyone was inside.

A top Libyan opposition leader urged formal U.S. recognition at the White House on Friday, one day after the interim council secured strong support from Britain.

Mahmoud Jibril, president of the Libyan Transitional National Council's Executive Bureau, and his delegation met with top Obama administration officials.

During the meeting, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told the leader of the Libyan opposition group that the U.S. views the group "as a legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people," according to a White House statement released after the Friday meeting.

The statement stopped short of formal recognition of the Transitional National Council.

In an interview on CNN's "Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" on Thursday, Jibril said his main message to Donilon in Friday's meeting would be to clear up "misperceptions" about extreme elements in the opposition and ask for formal recognition.

Officials have said there are no plans to recognize the council out of concern of alienating Libyans that are not part of that group. They do not anticipate recognizing any one group as the official group until there is an election in Libya, officials have said.

"Ultimately, of course, it will be the people of Libya, not the international community, who will choose their leadership." White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday.

"But we do applaud the (council) for its commitment to a democratic future for Libya," Carney said.

In talks Thursday with the council's chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, British Prime Minister David Cameron invited the group to establish a formal office in London. Cameron said Britain would also boost its presence in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital.

The United States has not recognized the opposition formally, although it has provided aid. Italy and France have recognized the opposition group.

As the opposition sought greater support, the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands said it will unveil Monday the names of those who are "most responsible for crimes allegedly committed in Libya."

The names will be submitted to the court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who has been seeking warrants for three individuals in crimes against humanity allegedly committed since February, when the Libyan uprising erupted.

Libyan state television broadcast video late Wednesday that it said showed Gadhafi meeting with tribal elders in a Tripoli hotel, marking the strongman's first public appearance in nearly two weeks.

The camera panned from a television program bearing the date of May 11 to the group of more than a dozen men, including Gadhafi.

Gadhafi, wearing sunglasses and dark clothing, had not been seen on television since April 30, the same day a NATO airstrike hit the Tripoli compound reportedly housing him and one of his sons. Libyan officials said at the time that Saif al-Arab Gadhafi was killed but that his father had escaped.

Gadhafi has been firm in his attempt to retain power in Libya. Loyalist forces and rebel fighters, aided by NATO airstrikes, have been fighting each other for weeks.

The bloodshed continued Friday.

Libyan state television reported Friday that NATO airsrikes hit a guest house in the eastern oil town of al-Brega, killing 11 people and injuring about 45 others.

Ibrahim condemned the attack, calling NATO "barbaric" and inhumane" in its actions for striking attendees of a religious conference while they were asleep. He showed a video that showed the imams in prayer and then bodies being taken away.

"Now is this protection of civilians?" Ibrahim asked. "Is this legitimate under any Security Council resolution to kill people in their sleep?"

NATO's military office confirmed that NATO conducted an air strike in al-Brega earlier Friday but said the target was clearly identified as a command and control structure, which was being used by Gadhafi regime to coordinate attacks against the civilian population.

And Ahmed Bani, a rebel military spokesman, denied that civilian casualties were caused by NATO strikes.

All civilians have left the al-Brega area, Bani said. The remaining population are pro-Gadhafi forces and have taken up positions in civilian neighborhoods, hiding equipment and ammunition, he said.

In the contested western city of Misrata, a doctor said rebels were able to maintain control of the airport and a civil defense base beyond the airport.

The doctor said that at least 10 people, including two babies, were killed and at least 20 were injured Friday in sporadic shelling.

A rebel spokesman, who asked to be identified only as Mohamed, also said rebels were controlling Misrata's airport and civil defense base, which are about 17 kilometers (10 miles) from the city center.

In Jibril's first official visit to Washington, the opposition leader is scheduled to meet Friday with Donilon as well as other senior administration officials and members of Congress.

Jibril said Thursday that the United States should turn over some of Libya's frozen assets to his group because "a human tragedy is in the making right now." He said Libyan rebels are facing a "big hurdle" in getting the U.S. government to free up some of the $30 billion-plus in frozen Libyan assets to help those suffering under Gadhafi's regime.

"Time is the crux of the matter, because having solved this problem in a matter of four or five weeks might be too late," Jibril told a group gathered at the Brookings Institution.

He said he wanted to clarify a misunderstanding about the council: that it was not a political organ but an administrative one that was managing the situation in Libya until the fall of Gadhafi's regime.

"The political question of who should rule Libya and how he or she should rule it, this is for the Libyan people to decide through a political democratic process based on constitutional grounds, based on an active civil society, based on equal rights and natural human rights for everybody," he said.

In March, Jibril met privately with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was in Paris for a meeting with the Group of Eight foreign ministers. At the State Department on May 5, Clinton said, "Clearly on our agenda is looking for the most effective ways to deliver financial assistance and other means of supporting and helping the opposition."

CNN's Amir Ahmed and Adam Levine contributed to this story.

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