MOSCOW -- The Russian head of the World Chess Federation said he spoke Tuesday with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and that he remains in Tripoli and "wants to defend his country."
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has known Gadhafi for years. His visit to Tripoli this summer was the last time the Libyan leader was seen in public after NATO airstrikes began. The two of them were filmed playing chess together on June 12.
"In Arabic language, Moammar Gadhafi said that now he is in his country, he doesn't want to leave his homeland, he wants to defend his country and he wants to thank all people in the world who support his small country, small nation who fights against countries from NATO," Ilyumzhinov said in an interview with Associated Press Television News. "And after that he adds in English: Thank you very much!"
Gadhafi's whereabouts have been of intense interest as rebels have claimed control over much of Libya's capital and stormed his main military compound.
Ilyumzhinov said he was in his car when he got an unexpected phone call at about 6 p.m. Moscow time (1400 GMT, 10 a.m. EDT) from Gadhafi's son Mohammed, who told him he was with his father in Tripoli and the Libyan leader wanted to say a few words to him.
"Mohammed translated these sentences from Arabic into English and after that he said, Kirsan, I'm sorry, because of security I will call you later. This telephone conversation was about two-three minutes."
Gadhafi's voice was calm and he remains defiant, the Russian said.
The two men have known each other since at least 2004, when the chess federation, known by its French acronym, FIDE, held its world championship in Tripoli.
Ilyumzhinov, a wealthy businessman, was the leader of the predominantly Buddhist province Kalmykia from 1993 until he stepped down last October. He is known for eccentric behavior and once claimed to have been abducted by aliens.
Varya Kudryavtseva contributed to this report.