Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has told state TV that Osama Bin Laden and his followers are to blame for the protests wracking his country.
In a phone call from the town of al-Zawiya played live on TV, Col Gaddafi said young people were being duped with drugs and alcohol to take part in destruction and sabotage.
Col Gaddafi is battling to shore up control of Tripoli and western areas. Protesters have been consolidating gains in cities in the east.
The telephone call was said to be an address to the people of al-Zawiya, 50km west of the capital, where there has been renewed gunfire reported in the streets. Col Gaddafi said the protesters had no genuine demands and were being dictated to by the al-Qaeda leader.
Bin Laden ... this is the enemy who is manipulating people. Do not be swayed by Bin Laden, he said.
It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda. Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world”
He said the young protesters were trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs.
He said that Libya was not like Egypt and Tunisia, which have seen their leaders deposed because the people of Libya had in their own hands the instrument to change their lives through committees.
This is your country and it is up to you how to deal with it, he said.
Calling the situation in al-Zawiya a farce, he urged families to rein in their sons, saying many of the protesters were underage and beyond the reach of the law.
But he also vowed that those carrying out violent protests should be put on trial.
This was Col Gaddafi's second live TV appearance since the protests erupted on 15 February. On Tuesday he said he would die a martyr in Libya and fight to the last drop” of his blood.
Heavy gunfire has been reported in al-Zawiya and reports of a police station on fire.
Zuara, 120km west of Tripoli, was said to be in the hands of anti-government militias and defence committees of civilians with no sign of police. Fighting is reported between pro- and anti-government forces in Misrata, Libya's third-biggest city, 200km east of Tripoli.
But Tripoli, under government control, and cities in the east, held by the protesters, are generally said to be calm.