- (Photo: AP Images / Jerome Delay)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to meet with rebel leaders in Libya next week when the country would be entering its fourth week of uprisings.
"We are standing with the Libyan people as they brave bombs and bullets to demand that [Muammar al-Gaddafi] must go – now," she said Thursday as she addressed a congressional panel.
The revolts in the North African country against the four decades-long rule of Gaddafi have turned bloody with government forces instructed to attack protesters.
The death toll is estimated to be over 1,000 with thousands more injured.
International leaders have condemned the violence against protesters. Clinton said Thursday that the U.S. is suspending relationships with the existing Libyan embassy, "so we expect them to end operating as the embassy of Libya."
The Libyan ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations will urge the U.S. on Friday to take the further step of recognizing the opposition as the legitimate government. France became the first nation to do so on Thursday.
Along with Libya, Clinton will also be making stops in France, Tunisia and Egypt during her travels next week.
In the meantime, the civil war continues to rage on with Gaddafi's son, Saif, threatening full-scale military action against rebels.
"We will never ever give up. We will never ever surrender," he told Reuters. "This is our country. We fight here in Libya. The Libyan people, we will never ever welcome NATO, we will never ever welcome Americans here."
Revolutions for freedom and democracy have spread across North Africa and the Middle East since December. While the presidents of both Tunisia and Egypt have stepped down, Gaddafi has vowed to hold onto his regime until his "last drop of blood."
Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, observed that the Libyan government is taking great pains to use any means necessary to exterminate the uprising. And in the middle of that, Christians are getting caught in the crossfire, he noted.
During such a complex and confusing time, Moeller reassured believers that "God is still in control."
Though the Middle East is "more volatile today than we've ever seen before," there is also "incredible openness," he added.
"We're hearing reports from Egypt and Libya, from the Gulf region. All of these countries that are experiencing the turmoil, God is also at work."
Still, the future is uncertain for these countries and Moeller urged prayers – prayers for the protection of the Christian minority and for the progress of openness and democracy.