Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, defiantly rejecting United Nations demands to hand over suspects in the 1988 Pan Am bombing, sought Saturday in a fiery speech to rally Muslims worldwide to Libya's defense.
"Our stand is clear. We will not let go of our sovereignty. Libyan law cannot be violated without death," Gadhafi, dressed in a cream-colored suit and cape and waving his fists, told a crowd of about 3,000 people in Tripoli's main plaza. Some shouted "Jihad!" - holy war - in response.But despite the heated rhetoric, Gadhafi left open the possibility Libya might still seek some compromise to head off the air, arms and diplomatic sanctions the U.N. Security Council has voted to impose on April 15 unless the suspects are handed over.
Underscoring the growing tensions, the State Department on Saturday reiterated its call for U.S. citizens to leave Libya immediately. About 500 to 1,000 Americans are in Libya, most working with oil companies or as consultants with construction projects. The United States, which has no diplomatic ties with Tripoli, had already advised its citizens to get out.
Also Saturday, Venezuela recalled its ambassador, two days after its Tripoli embassy was sacked by a Libyan mob. Venezuela heldthe presidency of the Security Council at the time of the sanctions vote.
The two Libyans are wanted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Britain and the United States last year issued warrants for the pair, said to be Libyan government agents.
France is also seeking the trial of four other Libyan suspects, including Gadhafi's brother-in-law, in the 1989 bombing of a French UTA jetliner over Niger, which killed 171 people.
Gadhafi's speech, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, was his first public address since the Security Council approved the sanctions Tuesday.
Under intense pressure, the Libyan leader has swung between defiance and cooperative overtures on the Pan Am suspects.
Recently, the Tripoli government proposed turning over the suspects to the Arab League but then refused to do so. Arab League sources in Cairo said the organization's seven-nation mediation committee on Libya would resume its consultations in the Egyptian capital Tuesday.