Thousands Bussed In To Pro-Gaddafi Rally

Stuart Ramsay
Thousands Bussed In To Pro-Gaddafi Rally

On the main coast road that runs the entire width of Libya countless buses, trucks, vans and cars made their way east from the capital Tripoli and towns and villages en route.

The bussing-in of Gaddafi supporters to apparently uncoordinated rallies has been standard fare for weeks; but this was on a massive scale.

Thousands mobilised as the Libya Contact Group held their latest round of talks in Turkey.

Their destination was the town of Zlitan, 20-odd miles from the rebel front lines. It was to be a huge demonstration of support for the colonel.

Tens of thousands crammed into the town's main square. Men, women and children, horses and even a camel coloured nose to tail in Libyan green.

As the United States became the most significant country yet to recognise eastern Libya's National Transitional Council as the county's legitimate government, the crowds waited for Gaddafi to condemn the move in an address broadcast through a huge sound system.

"The recognitions of the Council of Shame is worth nothing," the leader's voice bellowed out.

"These massive demonstrations make any such recognition worthless," he continued.

Each pause in the speech was greeted with bursts of gunfire from the crowd.

I walked amongst the chanting masses with a soldier keeping people back from mobbing us. It was not aggressive, quite the opposite in fact.

One man who had lived for 10 years in Cardiff put his arm on my shoulder when he learned I grew up in Wales.

"I like you, I like Welsh people, I like British people, but I don't like your government and I don't like Nato and it's bombing. Look around you, these people are for real. Trust me, they love Gaddafi," he said.

Without doubt this was an organised event. Militia and military oversaw and controlled the crowds swirling around the square. But while they were brought to Zlitan there was no doubt that they really do believe in Colonel Gaddafi.

Despite a continuing show of defiance from Gaddafi and his people, there are indications that some sort of negotiation is underway to find a peaceful settlement, although the rebels are promising a concerted move on Tripoli.

An imponderable is whether a peaceful solution to this is actually a possibility.

Judging from the mood in Zlitan, without that solution, the next phase of this civil war could be truly horrendous.