'Troops control 90% of Libya'
Rome - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam told Italian newspapers published on Saturday the army had regained control over "90% of the country" and would totally defeat rebels.
"Now 90% of the country is under our control and soon it will be all over," said Seif al-Islam, adding that compromise between the regime and the rebels was out of the question.
In interviews with Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and Repubblica, Gaddafi's second son swore there would be "a war to the end" with the rebels, describing the insurgents as "a snake that strikes without warning".
"These terrorists are not speaking about democracy, elections or values. They are simple terrorists," he said.
Poised and fluent in English, Seif al-Islam was until recently his father's best public relations asset, presenting himself as a progressive defender of human rights.
'Rivers of blood'
But in recent weeks Gaddafi's high profile son has publicly defended the Libyan regime's heavy-handed crackdown on protesters and rebels, even warning that "rivers of blood" would flow if the country slipped into civil war.
In the interviews published on Saturday, Gaddafi's son recognised his father's regime had made some mistakes, saying Libya was a "bit late in building a modern army, a modern police, a new economy and a freer society".
When asked about France's recognition of the rebels in eastern Benghazi as the true representatives of the Libyan people, he dismissed French President Nicolas Sarkozy as "bizarre".
"He is talking about people who proclaimed themselves the 'Council for Libya'. But who are they? Did you see elections take place? A referendum?"
'We are shocked'
Seif al-Islam also blasted Italy, Libya's key commercial partner and its former colonial ruler, accusing it of "treason" and threatening "economic retaliation".
"We are shocked and even irritated by your position," he said, addressing Italy. "When you betray a partner how do you think he will react?"
Seif al-Islam said Italy would be the "first victim" if rebels took control over Libya "as terrorists and illegal immigrants would set sail from Tripoli to Lampedusa and Sicily".
"The message to Italy is very simple: the Libyan people are united and soon we will win against the terrorists. Then we will settle accounts with the rest of the world."
"It will be very easy to replace Italy with China or Russia," he said.
Message to Italy
And in a message addressed particularly to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is known to have close ties with the Libyan strongman, Seif al-Islam said: "Libya is a frontline for Italy.
"What is happening here now will determine what will happen in your country tomorrow."
The former colonial power in Libya, Italy was initially reluctant to let go of Gaddafi but then followed the international community, while trying not to jeopardise its ties with the oil-rich North African country.