By Vittorio Hernandez

Bani Walid, Libya

To debunk reports that he fled to Niger, fugitive Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has made a telephone call to a Syrian television station sympathetic to him to clarify the speculation.

Gaddafi insisted to Arral television that he is still in Libya, but did not disclose his real location. He dismissed reports he was in Niger as lies and psychological warfare with the rebels that have taken control of a large part of Libya, except four cities and towns.

Still defiant despite being on the losing side, Gaddafi said he and his supporters will defeat NATO and the National Transitional Council.

In his audio message, Gaddafi described the rebels as germs, rats and scumbags for cooperating with NATO.

Amid speculation as to his whereabouts, the Niger government said it was still studying how it would deal with the issue if the former strongman seek asylum there. The issue was fueled by reports that 250 military trucks with Taureg warriors and other pro-Gaddafi forces, arms and looted cash and gold crossed the Niger border earlier this week.

Niger Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum said the options are to grant Gaddafi refuge or hand him over to the International Criminal Court, which Niger recognizes. The NTC asked Niger to reject Gaddafi if he seeks asylum.

Bazoum, who confirmed the entry of Gaddafi's convoy, said Niger accepted them for humanitarian reasons, but told them to respect what they could and could not do in a foreign land as mandated by international laws.

He admitted that Niger could not afford to close its boundaries with Libya because the area is too big, but added that the country recognizes the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya.

Following the live phone call, rebel commanders said that Gaddafi could possibly be hiding in Bani Walid, which has rejected a ceasefire proposal from the NTC. The provisional government has sent fighters to the town with the hope of capturing the former leader.


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