TRIPOLI, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi has denounced the country's rebels as "rats" and says the West wants to steal Libyan oil.

Gadhafi spoke to supporters in the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday. He denied that thousands of people have died in weeks of fighting and said only hundreds had died — mostly rebels.

Only 10 days ago, the rebellion was poised to march on Tripoli and had appeared capable of sweeping Gadhafi out after 41 years in power. But the regime's better armed and organized military has reversed the tide.

In Benghazi, the main rebel stronghold in Libya's east, a crowd watching on a TV projection on a wall in Benghazi shouted curses and threw shows at the image, in video broadcast live by Al-Jazeera satellite TV.