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Gaddafi in new Libya statement

Fugitive leader Muammar Gaddafi accused rebels of handing Libya over to foreign influence and vowed to press ahead with his resistance just hours after an attack on a key oil plant by loyalist fighters.

"We will not be ruled after we were the masters," said the brief statement attributed to Gaddafi that was read on Syria's Al-Rai TV.

The message described the opposition forces as "traitors" who were willing to turn over Libya's oil riches to foreign interests.

"We will not hand Libya to colonialism, once again, as the traitors want," said the statement, which pledged to fight against the "coup."

The words by Gaddafi contrasted sharply with the staggering losses for his regime in recent weeks, including being driven from the capital Tripoli and left with only a handful of strongholds that are surrounded by former rebel forces.

Gaddafi's whereabouts are unknown, but his followers claim he is still in Libya. Some of his family members have fled to neighbouring Niger, most recently his son al-Saadi.

Although Gaddafi's opponents now hold sway over most of Libya - and remain backed by Nato airstrikes - there are signs that the Libyan strongman's backers can still strike back.

At the important oil terminal at Ras Lanouf, suspected loyalist staged back-to-back attacks that began with saboteurs setting fires and then shifted to a convoy of gunmen riding in from the desert.

In a possibly coordinated attack, the port was then targeted by a convoy of armed men apparently based in a refugee camp about 20 miles south of Ras Lanouf.

Former rebels, meanwhile, have been facing stiff resistance from Gaddafi supporters in Bani Walid since last week and have captured most of the northern half of the town, which is one of three significant remaining bastions of Gaddafi's loyalists.

Mubarak al-Saleh, an opposition political envoy from Bani Walid, claimed Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam was leading loyalist forces massed in the town.

The main battle front in Bani Walid is now a bridge that links the town with the port city of Misrata to the north-west. Gaddafi loyalists have covered the pavement with oil slicks and fuel spills to hinder vehicles trying to cross into the city centre.

A rebel commander, Abu Ouejeila al-Hbeishi, said Gaddafi snipers have taken up positions on roof tops, including on a hotel, an ancient castle and an administrative building in the town centre. Loyalist forces also fired Grad rockets and mortars at revolutionary fighters on the northern edge of Bani Walid, where al-Hawaishi said some 2,000 former rebels have gathered.

Nato, which has played a key role in crippling Gaddafi's military forces since intervening in Libya's civil war in late March, has kept up its attacks on remaining pro-Gaddafi sites.

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