TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will stay in the country "until the end" to lead it to victory against its enemies, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
Speaking after former Foreign Secretary Moussa Koussa defected and flew to Britain on Wednesday, the spokesman said Western air strikes against Libya had only united its top leadership against "a clear enemy."
"If this aggression did anything, it only rallied people around the leader and the unity of the nation," Mussa Ibrahim said in Tripoli. "Especially now. They see a clear enemy."
Asked if Gaddafi and his sons were still in the country, he said: "Rest assured, we are all here. We will remain here until the end. This is our country. We are strong on every front."
He added: "We are not relying on individuals to lead the struggle. This is a struggle of the whole nation. It's not dependent on individuals or officials."
Ibrahim refused to comment on Koussa's defection, saying there would be a formal government statement later in the day.
"We have millions of people leading this struggle. If anyone feels tired, feels sick or exhausted, if they want to take a rest, it just happens. I am not confirming anything," he said.
Ibrahim dismissed suggestions that coalition air strikes had tipped the balance in favor of rebel forces fighting against Gaddafi troops, or encouraged ordinary people to seek change after Gaddafi's four-decade rule.
"With the air strikes bombarding every Libyan city, you don't see people coming out en masse demanding any change," he said. "Where is a popular revolution? Where are the tribes coming out and saying to the leader: 'Leave the country'? You need to read the signs."
(Reporting by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)