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Embattled Gaddafi rallies support

As Nato hammers away at Muammar Gaddafi's defences and the United States and its allies throw their support behind the rebels, the Libyan leader is trying to boost morale in what is left of his nation and show his people he is still strong and his opponents are few.

For three days running, carnival-like rallies have been held featuring bands, horseback riders and even a camel dyed green. At each gathering, thousands of delirious supporters of Gaddafi cheered as the leader's defiant speeches boomed from massive speakers.

"These are the millions of Libyan people and the picture is now complete. Who else remains? Less than 100,000 are trapped in Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk," Gaddafi said in one of the speeches, referring to rebel-held cities in the east.

Bolstering that image is all the more pressing after the US and more than 30 nations recognised Gaddafi's enemies during a meeting on Friday in Istanbul, potentially freeing up billions in frozen oil money that could be put into rebel hands.

Nato jets destroyed a military storage facility and other targets in Tripoli's eastern outskirts early on Sunday, and rebel attacks on the eastern oil city of Brega stretched into their fourth day, with reports of pitched battles in the residential areas.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed al-Rajaly said his forces had liberated the north-eastern half of the city and were moving against government forces holed up in the south-western part.

The latest pro-Gaddafi rally was held in the shattered city of Zawiya, where outgunned rebels held off government forces for weeks at the start of the rebellion against Gaddafi's four-decade rule in February.

Crowds cheered in the square, lined with buildings scarred by bullets and tank fire and whose interior walls still bear scribbled graffiti calling Gaddafi a dog.

Last week there were demonstrations in Tripoli and the southern city of Sebha and then three in a row starting on Thursday, in Ajaylat near the Tunisian border, Zlitan, not far from rebel-held Misrata and then Zawiya.

Each drew up to 10,000 cheering supporters - though Gaddafi described the crowds as millions-strong and sending a message of defiance to Nato and the world. Libya has a population of about 6.5 million.

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