Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, facing a popular uprising and growing global pressure to step down, insisted on Monday that he was still beloved in his country and denied there were demonstrations against him.
"All my people love me. They would die to protect me," Gaddafi told western reporters in a rare interview.
The interview, conducted at a restaurant on a road on Tripoli's Mediterranean coast, was granted because Gaddafi wanted to get the truth out.
Laughing when asked if he would step down as suggested by top U.S. officials, Gaddafi seemed in denial about the strength of the uprising against his 41-year rule that has ended his control over eastern Libya and is closing in on Tripoli.
When asked about reports of air bombing against protesters, Gaddafi said they did not happen and that they had only bombed military and ammunition depots.
The 68-year-old leader urged the United Nations or any other organization to conduct a "fact finding mission" in Libya and questioned how nations could freeze assets, impose sanctions and implement a travel ban based on media reports alone.
"He seemed to be in complete denial about the protests against him, and that other big cities in Libya, particularly those in the east, had been taken by his opponents," ABC's Christiane Amanpour said in her report.
Gaddafi, who vowed to survive the uprising, blamed al Qaeda for encouraging young people to seize military arms.
He also accused Western countries of abandoning his government in its fight against "terrorists" and said he felt betrayed by the United States.
"I'm surprised that we have an alliance with the West to fight al Qaeda, and now that we are fighting terrorists they have abandoned us," Gaddafi said. "Perhaps they want to occupy Libya."
Gaddafi called President Barack Obama a "good man" but said he appeared misinformed about the situation in Libya.
"The statements I have heard from him must have come from someone else," Gaddafi said. "America is not the international police of the world."