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Gaddafi Rejects Surrender Demand

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Pressure was intensifying on fugitive Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi today as rebels prepared for a final showdown.

They were still hoping he may surrender without a fight but the dictator continued to issue warlike statements.

Although remaining in hiding, he issued a defiant appeal to his supporters to continue to fight.

"We will fight them everywhere," he said. "We will burn the ground under their feet ... Get ready to fight the occupation."

The National Transitional Council's representative in the UK, Guma El-Gamaty, said Tripoli was "almost" secure now.

"Gaddafi is still at large but he is hiding, he is isolated, he is almost surrounded in possibly one of two small places where we think he is," he said.

"We think it is just a matter of time before he is either apprehended or, if he resisted arrest, he might be killed."

Rebel fighters have pushed closer to Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, despite the extension of a deadline for the town's surrender and negotiations with tribal leaders aimed at avoiding bloodshed.

Rebel officials said they were in no rush to assault Sirte, hoping it will surrender without an attack. But they continued to move their forces into position in case an assault was needed.

Khaled Zintani, a spokesman for the rebels in the mountain town of Zintan, said: "Military action will be the last option, because after the fall of the capital, we are not in a hurry."

Tribal elders in Sirte had asked that a delegation from Zintan be sent to Sirte to help with negotiations, he said, because of a long history of bad blood with rebels from towns closer to Sirte.

The deadline for the surrender of Sirte has been extended until next Saturday.

Meanwhile British military activity has continued as part of efforts to keep pressure on Gaddafi.

The Ministry of Defence said the RAF had destroyed a military command and control installation in Bani Walid during an armed reconnaissance patrol on Thursday.

Major General Nick Pope, the Chief of the Defence Staff's communications officer, said: "In the early hours of the morning, a precision strike there destroyed a military command and control installation, and a couple of hours later, our aircraft identified a pick-up truck armed with a large rocket pod.

"A Brimstone missile destroyed the vehicle, with numerous secondary explosions from the rockets.

"In the afternoon, Tornado GR4s conducted a strike on six buildings in use by former regime forces near Bani Walid, at Qaryat al Mirqib. All six targets were destroyed by Paveway guided bombs.

"Overnight (Thursday/Friday), HMS Liverpool again fired star shells over pro-Gaddafi military positions at Sirte, to demonstrate to those forces which persist in prolonging the conflict that their positions are well known and capable of being targeted."