by our Arab Affairs correspondent

MUAMMAR Gaddafi has appeared on Libyan TV warning of civil war and vowing to crush opposition forces that include former monarchists, Muslim Brothers and pro-imperialist elements.

At least one senior army officer and a small number of Libyan diplomats, including the ambassadors to the United States and the Arab League, have defected to the rebels and a member of the former royal family, Idris al-Senussi, says he’s ready to return to the country once “change” has been initiated.

The Arab League has suspended Libya’s membership and called for an immediate end to the violence and the initiation of a national dialogue with the opposition and the UN Security Council has condemned the use of force against civilians.

But fierce clashes continue as the Libyan army battles with armed opposition groups for control of the eastern coast of the country, following the dispersal of anti-government demonstrations in the capital, Tripoli, earlier in the week.

The Libyan government says over 100 soldiers have been killed in the violence along with some 200 demonstrators. But opposition sources say many more have been killed or injured in the fighting which began with Tunis-style reform demand demonstrations in Tripoli on 15th February.

Speaking from the ruins of the presidential palace destroyed by Anglo-American war-planes when the imperialists tried to kill him in 1986, Muammar Gaddafi said Libya would not surrender to foreign pressure.

Refusing to stand down, Gaddafi recalled the gains made by the Libyan revolution and said he would “die a martyr”.

The Libyan leader said the whole world looked up to Libya and that the pro testers were “serving the devil”. Who that “devil” might be is another matter. There are, of course, the rebels themselves. They have adopted the flag of the monarchy which ended with Gaddafi’s Free Officer revolution in 1969.

Before this recent upsurge the Libyan opposition consisted of royalists as well as shadowy groups like the National Front for the Salvation of Libya and the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition.

They largely operated out of London and Washington. And it’s in the United States and Britain that the loudest calls are now being heard for open intervention on the side of the rebels.

In Washington the Obama administration is hypocritically expressing its “grave concern” at the violence and the White House said on Tuesday it was examining proposals by US Senator John Kerry to consider re-imposing sanctions on Libya. And British Prime Minister, David Cameron, told Arab students in the Gulf that Britain wanted to see the UN “go further” in order to send a message to Tripoli.

But it’s not just Anglo-American imperialism that wants Gaddafi out. Franco-German imperialism is also looking hungrily at Libya’s vast oil-reserves.

Germany and France are both calling for European Union sanctions against Libya until the violence ends, which essentially is a call for Gaddafi to stand down.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: “I call on the foreign ministry to propose to our European Union partners the swift adoption of concrete sanctions so that all those involved in the ongoing violence know that they must assume the consequences of their actions?I would also like to be examined the suspension until further notice of economic, commercial and financial relations with Libya.”

Sarkozy said the “international community” — a code word for world imperialism — “could not remain a spectator” to the “brutal and bloody repression” of the Libyan protesters.

This was echoed by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who also said she would be in favour of sanctions against Libya if it did not halt the use of violence against its own people.

All the imperialists have their greedy eyes on Libya’s oil. The country has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth largest in the world and the imperialists clearly hope that the Gaddafi government will be replaced by willing Arab tools that will supply imperialism with cheap oil for many years to come.