"All my people love me," Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi insisted Monday, ignoring mounting global pressure to step down and perhaps head into exile after four decades at the helm of his country.
"They love me. All my people with me. They love me all. They would die to protect me," the veteran Libyan leader said, according to AFP, speaking in halting English in an interview with Western media shown on the BBC's world news website.
"No demonstrations at all in the streets," claimed Gaddafi, who has ruled his north African country for more than 41 years. "No one is against us, against me for what?"
Those remarks and the Libyan leader's callous lack of concern for the plight of his people were roundly condemned by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
"It sounds just frankly delusional, when he can talk and laugh to an American and (an) international journalist while he is slaughtering his own people," Rice said at the White House. "It only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality."
"It only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality," she said.
Gaddafi sat down in Tripoli for the interview with ABC television channel as well as the BBC and The Times of London as world powers ramped up pressure on his regime.
There has been global outrage at a brutal crackdown on opposition demonstrations against Gaddafi's regime which erupted nearly two weeks ago in the wake of the upheavals in its neighbors Egypt and Tunisia.
Pro-democracy forces now control vast swaths of the east of the north African country, but rights groups say at least 1,000 people have been killed in the crackdown.
Meanwhile, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to the Holocaust Museum here, said of Gadhafi: "He has lost legitimacy when he declared war on his people.
"This is a totally unacceptable situation," Ban stressed, adding: "I urge him to listen to his people's hopes."
After initially groping for a response, the United States has now openly called for Gaddafi to step down, suggesting he should go into exile.
"The people of Libya have made themselves clear: it is time for Gaddafi to go -- now, without further violence or delay," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting on Libya in Geneva.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said "exile" was "one option" that would satisfy U.S. demands for Gaddafi to go, amid the uprising.
But Gaddafi hit back, saying he had been let down by the United States.
"It is betrayal, they have no morals. 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," he said, according to ABC television.
"Perhaps they want to occupy Libya," ABC quoted him as saying, adding Gaddafi had insisted he could not step down because he is neither a president nor a king.
He also challenged those who have suggested he has stashed money abroad to produce evidence of such funds and said he would "put two fingers in their eye," the BBC reported.
The BBC's Jeremy Bowen said the interview had taken place in a restaurant in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and Gaddafi had seemed relaxed throughout.
"He laughed quite a bit when asked various questions. He seemed very unconcerned about foreign pressure, saying the Libyan people were behind him, the Libyan people loved him," Bowen wrote on the BBC website.
Gaddafi also alleged the people who had come onto the streets were under the influence of drugs supplied by "outsiders". He added people had seized weapons and that his supporters were under orders not to shoot back.
"It's al-Qaeda," he told Bowen. "They went into military bases and seized arms and they're terrorizing the people."
"The people who had the weapons were youngsters and they're starting to put down their weapons now as the drugs that al-Qaeda gave them wear off."
The brutal crackdown on opposition protests has killed at least 1,000 people and set off a "humanitarian emergency," the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has said, warning of a mass exodus from Libya.