Cairo: In what seems to be a last attempt to save his disturbed regime, Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday addressed the nation in the capital. In a press conference, he called upon Libyans stating that power is in their hands and they can choose any authority whom they find fit to take responsibility to rule the nation. He added, “I have no political role.”

A defiant Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday refused to give up power as he warned against any foreign intervention, saying it will lead to "a bloody war" in which "thousands of Libyans would die".

"We will not accept [an] American intervention. This will lead to a bloody war and thousands of Libyans will die if America and Nato enter Libya," Gaddafi said at a public gathering for the first time since the two-week-old uprising began, an event aired live on state television.

Digging in his heels, he claimed that the anti-regime protests were part of a "conspiracy" to grab the oil resources of Libya.

"We will fight to the end, to the last man, the last woman ... with God's help," he said while describing the week long protests as being orchestrated by only a minority who were being propped up by "foreign forces, foreign media".

"Millions of Libyan people support me. They say they are ready to die for me," he said during the over one hour address which saw his supporters frequently cheer with chants of: "God, Muammar and Libya."

As his forces went on an offensive to wrest key cities from the rebels, 68-year-old Gaddafi joined his loyalists at a ceremony to mark 34 years of "people's power", accusing al-Qaeda of being behind the rebellion.

Gaddafi, who had assumed the country's charge 41 year ago through a coup, had proclaimed "people's power" on March 2, 1977.

In his address, he repeatedly underlined that there is no question of him quitting as he is not a President. "To step down from what? I am just a symbol. Power is in the hands of the people," he said. "This is a conspiracy to grab our oil resources."

Amid growing international isolation, Gaddafi called for the United Nations and NATO to a "set up fact-finding committees" to find out how people were killed and what had happened in Libya.

He accused the UN of passing resolutions condemning Libya based on "false reports" and he challenged the world body to investigate.

"We urge the world, the United Nations, to see where the people were killed, to send a fact-finding team," he said.

He blamed the foreign forces for the events in Libya, saying it was "a conspiracy" to colonise the country and seize its oil resources. "Don't trust the foreign media".

The message of defiance came as the Libyan strongman unleashed his force of heavily armed mercenaries who stormed the rebel-held oil exporting terminal town of Brega, with the US warships taking up positions off the north African country's coast.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi also regained control of the strategic town in the country's north-west, even as opposition fighters were preparing for a march into the capital Tripoli.

Deploying tanks and heavy artillery, Gaddafi sent a hundred cars packed with mercenaries to storm the rebel-held Brega as his Russian-built warplanes bombed the nearby Ajdabiya, 40 kms from the oil-town.

In his over one hour address, Gaddafi repeatedly claimed that al-Qaeda was behind the popular uprising against his 41-year rule and promised to fight it to the last man and woman.

"Sleeper cells from al-Qaeda, its elements, infiltrated gradually ... Suddenly it started in al-Baida... The sleeping cell was told to attack the battalion ... and it took arms from police stations," he said.

The Libyan despot used a lull in fighting to time his offensive to break the momentum of popular rebellion against his rule, as top US and NATO leaders mulled over the complexities of enforcing a 'no-fly' zone, which would effectively ground Gaddafi's airpower.

The fast paced developments came as the strife-torn nation's newly emerged opposition leaders are approaching the United Nations to ask for foreign air strikes to pulverize Gaddafi's capabilities to hit civilian targets.

The opposition leader based in rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, Libya's second largest town, said they wanted to invoke the United Nations, "to preempt more massacres by Gaddafi's air force in the coming days as the tide turns against the despot."

Al-Jazeera reported that forces sent by Libyan leader seized back Marsa al-Brega, after fierce fighting lasting overnight as rebel forces had to fall back, under pressure from air-power.

"The town fell after intense fighting due to air-bombardment," the Arab channel reported quoting eyewitnesses. The assaults mark the most significant gains made by Gaddafi's forces who have been on the retreat.

The fresh battles could trigger an intense confrontation which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned could descend the Arab nation into a prolonged civil war, unless the Arab strongman was made to step down.

Al-Jazeera also said that towns of Gharyan and Sabratha had also switched sides after intense battles.

The opposition leaders said Gaddafi's offensive was aimed at creating a buffer zone around the capital where he is holed up.

An intense battle was also reported to be underway for the control of the town of Misruta, 200 kms east of Tripoli, where rebel forces were reported to be on the periphery of a major air base located on the outskirts of the town.

Though Brega changed hands, opposition commanders said they were confident of flushing out the mercenaries as "we are receiving large-scale defections from the Libyan army."

They said a rebel force of 10,000 volunteers have been massed at Ajdabiya for a counter attack on Brega.

Three US warships armed with fighters, helicopter gunships and marines are now in position off the Libyan coast, but US and NATO commanders kept the world guessing whether or not they would impose a 'no-fly' zone.

The White-House said the ships were being redeployed as part of western efforts to pile more pressure on Gaddafi to stop his violent crackdown and step aside. But a US official stressed it "was not taking any options off the table".

Earlier Defence Secretary Robert Gates had said "we are looking at a lot of options and contingencies. No decisions have been made on any course of action."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, a leading advocate of 'no-fly' zone, said "it was not acceptable to have a situation where Colonel Gaddafi can be murdering his own people using aeroplanes and helicopters.

(Agencies)