A defiant Moammar Gadhafi threatened Friday to carry out attacks in Europe unless NATO halts its campaign of airstrikes against his regime in Libya.
Gadhafi delivered the warning Friday in an address by telephone to thousands of supporters who gathered in Tripoli's Green Square. He vowed to stay on and warned the NATO-led alliance to stop its air war or face "catastrophe."
Gadhafi said that unless strikes stop, "we can decide to treat you in a similar way." He says that "if we decide, we can also move it (the fight) to Europe."
Friday's was one of the largest pro-government rallies in recent weeks. It came days after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi for crimes against humanity. International prosecutors allege government troops fired on civilian protesters during anti-Gadhafi street demonstrations earlier this year.
"We advise you to retreat before you face a catastrophe," Gadhafi told the crowd of supporters, who waved green flags and posters of the Libyan leader.
"I advise you to ground your planes ... and to hold discussions with the Libyan people," Gadhafi said. He also denounced the arrest warrant against him, issued on Monday.
The popular uprising has since turned into a protracted civil war, with anti-government rebels controlling much of eastern Libyan and parts of Libya's western mountains. NATO has been bombing government-linked targets since March.
In his speech Friday, Gadhafi denounced the rebels as traitors and blamed them for Libya's troubles. He said Libyans who fled to neighboring Tunisia are now "working as maids for the Tunisians."
"What brought you to this stage? The traitors," Gadhafi said in the audio message.
He urged his supporters to "march on the western mountains" to clear the area of weapons the French government delivered to the rebels there several days ago.
Libyan rebels who had advanced to within 50 miles of Tripoli were forced to retreat Friday after coming under a barrage of rocket fire from government forces.
The rebels advanced five days ago to the outskirts of the small town of Bir al-Ghanam, raising the possibility of a breakthrough in a four-month-old conflict that has become the bloodiest of the "Arab Spring" uprisings.
Rebel fighters who had been massing on a ridge near Bir al-Ghanam and preparing for an attack were pulled back under fire from Russian-made Grad rockets, said a Reuters photographer in Bir-Ayyad, 20 miles to the south.
The rebels returned to the same positions on the edges of Bir al-Ghanam on Friday afternoon, Reuters reporters there said.