BENGHAZI, Libya — Fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi vowed Thursday to wage a "long fight" to regain the power he seized 42 years ago to the day, calling on his supporters to set the country ablaze to defeat NATO and its Libyan rebel allies.
A pair of defiant audio statements from Gadhafi, broadcast by a Syria-based television channel that has become the mouthpiece of his crumbling regime, appeared to set back the rebel leadership's hopes for a peaceful surrender of his remaining strongholds.
With Gadhafi loyalists still in control of his home town of Sirte, rebels appeared to back away Thursday from their threat to attack the town this weekend if the holdouts did not surrender.
Despite his messages, Gadhafi's whereabouts remained a mystery, with rebel leaders saying he could be in the desert between Sirte, 278 miles east of the capital, and Bani Walid, a town 100 miles southeast of Tripoli. An Algerian newspaper put him in the far western Libyan town of Ghadamis near the borders with Algeria and Tunisia.
Rebel leaders had set a Saturday deadline for Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte and other pockets in the south and center of the country to surrender. But Col. Ahmed Bani, a spokesman for the rebel military, said Thursday that Gadhafi's fighters in Sirte would have until Sept. 10 to lay down their weapons, giving the town's residents time to understand the new reality in Libya.
CLINTON MEETING: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Libyan opposition leaders Thursday that they must deal with the case of the only person convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The bomber "should be behind bars," Clinton said. She also said rebels must secure weapons caches amassed by the Gadhafi regime and ensure they are not used to threaten the country's neighbors, the region or beyond.
REBEL VOWS LOYALTY: Tripoli's new military commander, Abdulhakim Belhadj, insists that he is no extremist or enemy of the United States. Belhadj has been accused of ties to al-Qaida and says he was tortured by the CIA.