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Saif Gaddafi Denies He Ordered Civilians Killed

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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who like his father is a wanted man under an international arrest warrant, denies that either of them ordered the killing of civilian protesters in Libya as prosecutors charge.

In the Libyan capital of Tripoli, meanwhile, thousands marched Friday in support of the Gadhafi regime, raising Libya's green national flags. Earlier this week, Libyan state TV had called for a "million man march" in Tripoli's Green Square.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi told Russian news channel RT in an interview posted online Friday that "most of the people" died when they tried to storm military sites, and that guards fired on them under standing orders to protect the bases and themselves.

However, documents from the International Criminal Court outline multiple instances in which the tribunal prosecutors allege government troops fired on civilian protesters during anti-Gadhafi street demonstrations earlier this year.

The younger Gadhafi had once been viewed as a reformer by the West and was being groomed as a possible successor to his father.

Seif al-Islam wore a thick beard and traditional clothes in the interview. He denounced the international court seeking his arrest as controlled by the NATO countries now bombing Libya.

"This court is a Mickey Mouse court ... For me to be responsible for killing people, it was a big joke," he told the Russian state-funded network.

The Netherlands-based tribunal on Monday issued arrest warrants against the Libyan leader, his son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi.

The three are accused of orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Moammar Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover up their alleged crimes.

Presiding Judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana has said that hundreds of civilians were killed, injured or arrested in the crackdown, and there were "reasonable grounds to believe" that Gadhafi and his son were both responsible for their murder and persecution.

But Seif al-Islam denied that he and his father specifically ordered protesters to be killed.

"Of course not," he said, arguing that government troops fired on protesters out of self-defense.

"Nobody ordered. Nobody. The guards fired. That's it. ... The guards were surprised by the attacking people and they start ... firing. They don't need an order to defend themselves," he said.

Libyan rebels began their uprising against Gadhafi in February. They swiftly managed to secure a number of military arms depots, and have turned those weapons on forces still loyal to the Libyan leader, who has been in power since 1969.

The conflict has turned into a civil war, with the rebels now controlling much of the eastern third of Libya. They also hold pockets in the west, including the vital port city of Misrata, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from Tripoli, and a number of mountain towns southwest of the capital.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Gadhafi's forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19, giving the rebels air support. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31. It is joined by a number of Arab allies.

In the interview, Seif al-Islam accused Western nations of intervening in Libya because they are after the country's oil and other resources. He said the goal is "to control Libya," and he vowed to fight on.

"Nobody will give up. Nobody will raise the white flag," he said. "We want peace, but if you want to fight, we are not cowards. ... We are going to fight."

On Thursday, the French-2 network aired an interview with Moammar Gadhafi's daughter Aisha, who said her father's government is in direct and indirect negotiations with Libyan rebels.

Aisha al-Gadhafi didn't elaborate, but said that to end the spilling of Libyan blood "we are ready to ally ourselves with the devil, with the rebel army." She also said she had lost a daughter and brother in the bombings.

In other developments, a rebel spokesman, Gomaa Ibrahim, confirmed Friday that a colonel in Gadhafi's army has defected to the rebel side. The officer, Mohammed al-Rajbani, had served as a local commander and recently joined rebel forces in Libya's western mountains, said Ibrahim. Several senior army officers have defected in recent months.

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