ALGIERS (Reuters) - Libya is an important partner for the West in containing al Qaeda and illegal migrants trying to reach Europe, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Monday, in an apparent warning to governments planning sanctions.
"Libya plays a vital role in regional peace and world peace," he said in an interview with the France 24 television station. "We are an important partner in fighting al Qaeda."
"There are millions of blacks who could come to the Mediterranean to cross to France and Italy, and Libya plays a role in security in the Mediterranean," he said, speaking through an interpreter.
Western governments have condemned Gaddafi for the killings of hundreds of people since protests against his rule broke out last month. Several foreign leaders have demanded sanctions and an end to his four decades in power.
But in the past few years foreign governments, especially in southern Europe, have relied on Libyan help to stem the flow of sub-Saharan Africans migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, and there has also been some cooperation in combating al Qaeda.
Gaddafi has denied his security forces shot innocent people, and in the interview on Monday repeated his assertion that the violence was orchestrated by al Qaeda.
"The African Union has sent a commission of enquiry to show that what is published about Libya abroad is 100 percent lies," Gaddafi said in the interview.
"The world has an image which is not based on anything and which is unreasonable," he said. "A distorted image has been formed of peaceful demonstrations."
An official at the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, said a fact-finding mission was being planned but had yet to set off for Tripoli.
"Not yet, they're working on it," the official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Christian Lowe and Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers and Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Tim Pearce)