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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.

Opposition politicians and tribal leaders have held a key meeting in the eastern town of al-Bayda to show a united front against Col Gaddafi.

‘This is your country’

The telephone call was said to be an address to the people of al-Zawiya, 50km (30 miles) 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.

“Those inciting are very few in numbers and we have to capture them.”

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 it in their own hands to change their lives through committees.

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