TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi called for a cease-fire and negotiations with NATO on Saturday but refused to surrender power, as alliance warplanes struck a government complex in the capital.

In a rambling address on state television that began about 2:30 a.m. and lasted 80 minutes, Gadhafi appeared both calm and defiant, describing military intervention by NATO, designed to protect civilians from his regime, as a massacre.

In Brussels, a NATO official told The Associated Press the alliance needed “to see not words but actions,” and that NATO would keep up the pressure until the U.N. Security Council mandate to protect Libyan civilians was fulfilled. Rebels also rejected Gadhafi’s offer of a cease-fire as “lies.”

“The gate to peace is open,” Gadhafi said, sitting behind a desk and occasionally glancing at copious handwritten notes. “You are the aggressors. We will negotiate with you. Come, France, Italy, U.K., America, come, we will negotiate with you.

“Why are you attacking us? Why are you killing our children? Why are you destroying our infrastructure?” he asked, while denying his forces had killed Libyan civilians.


As he spoke, NATO warplanes attacked government buildings close to the television center in Tripoli in what the Libyan government described as an attempt to kill Gadhafi. The TV images briefly went black on three occasions but the signal was quickly restored and Gadhafi, speaking from an undisclosed location, carried on without interruption. The TV center was not damaged.

The Libyan leader, who has ruled for more than four decades, said he would negotiate and uphold a cease-fire if NATO “stopped its planes.” But even as he made the offer he appeared to dismiss the possibility, describing his enemies as al-Qaida operatives who did not understand what a truce meant.

He also refused to step down or leave the country as the rebels and the leaders of the United States, Britain and France demand.

“I’m not leaving my country,” Gadhafi said. “No one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country.”


In Benghazi, the de facto capital of the opposition east, Gadhafi’s speech was dismissed as more lies from a leader who has repeatedly promised cease-fires while continuing to attack.

“There is very little credibility left in what he says,” said Jalal el Gallal, a rebel spokesman. “The bottom line is there is no more time for compromise with a liar and there is no solution that includes him or his family members.”

On Friday evening, the Libyan government threatened to attack ships carrying humanitarian aid into Misrata, on the same day that NATO said it had intercepted Libyan government vessels trying to lay anti-ship mines in the harbor.

Libya’s government says the port, which it has repeatedly shelled, is also being used by the rebels to deliver arms and “terrorists” to Misrata, but NATO described the attempt to lay mines as Gadhafi “trying to completely ignore humanitarian law.”

Hundreds of people have died in the siege of Misrata from indiscriminate government shelling of residential areas. On Friday, the Libyan army used tanks to fire on the city, killing 15 people and wounding more than 50, said Aiman Abu Shahma, a member of the city’s medical council.

In Tripoli, reporters were shown the damage apparently inflicted by three NATO missiles on a complex of colonial Italian buildings by the coast.