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An image grab taken from Libyan state television on February 25, 2011 shows Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi gesturing at supporters during an address at the Green Square in Tripoli. Kadhafi told his supporters to "prepare to defend Libya".AFP/Getty Images/AFP / Getty Images

Fight or flee.

Moammar Gadhafi, his hands stained with the blood of his own citizens ruthlessly gunned down by mercenaries loyal to the man who fancies himself as the African kings of kings, faces limited exit strategies.

Tyrants toppled by war or ousted by revolutions rarely enjoy quiet, peaceful retirements.

Only a few opt for a suicidal last stand despite raging rhetoric about never leaving. Adolf Hitler killed himself in his Berlin bunker.

Col. Gadhafi may indeed seek martyrdom after a final, bloody battle in Tripoli. Or, like most despots, he may opt at the penultimate moment to flee.

Not everyone makes it. Italy's fascist Benito Mussolini was hanged from a lamp post by an angry mob.

Romania's brutal Nicolae Ceausescu - who like the Libyan leader unleashed murderous security forces against unarmed civilian protesters - was captured and executed by firing squad (hundreds volunteered) on Christmas Day, 1989, after attempting to flee Bucharest by helicopter.

A few dictators manage to live out quiet lives, fleeing while the great powers turn a blind eye. The gluttonous and genocidal Idi Amin, who murdered several hundred thousand of his countrymen, fled first in 1979 to, ironically, Libya, where his ally and friend Colonel Gadhafi gave the "Butcher of Uganda" sanctuary. He moved on when the Saudi royal family gave him an estate and a lavish pension.

Others, like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, go to ground - literally. The Iraqi dictator, who notoriously gassed thousands of his Kurdish citizens, fled as U.S. tanks entered Baghdad in 2003. Mr. Hussein, who liked to style himself after Saladin, the great warrior, was eventually located - hiding in a hole - more than a year later. He was tried and executed.

A few toppled tyrants, such as the shah of Iran, managed to skulk away to be coddled by their friends. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter allowed the cancer-stricken shah, originally installed on the so-called Peacock Throne by the CIA, to enter the United States after the 1979 Iranian revolution and his American backers helped to find him a home in Egypt.

But despite lavish spending, Col. Gadhafi has few friends and even fewer who are likely to risk harbouring a megalomaniac fugitive certain to be indicted for crimes against humanity.

Any chance Col. Gadhafi had of quietly seeking sanctuary in another Arab nation has disappeared. Saudi's royal family may soon regret offering sanctuary to Tunisia's ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his wife, who apparently pocketed much of that nation's treasury. But the risk of arousing mobs demanding the arrest of a thief pale compared with the existential danger the House of Saud would face if it helped the Libyan leader after he turned machine guns against peacefully protesting fellow Arabs.

The Egyptian option of internal exilem, chosen by Hosni Mubarak after his vain hopes of retaining his dignity as a titular president for the rest of his term disappeared, is also closed to Col. Gadhafi.

If it turns out that Mr. Mubarak also looted Egypt's coffers, then his retirement in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh may end with an indictment.

A handful of pariah states comprise Col. Gadhafi's very short list of relocation options.

North Korea's Kim Jong-il, equally unpredictable, might be willing to host the man who seized power in Libya 42 years ago. The two have shared nuclear-weapons technology and a penchant for funding terrorist attacks.

However, among Col. Gadhafi's many peccadilloes is a fear of flying over water. Getting to Pyongyang with at least one refuelling stop where he risks arrest would be impossible even in his personal, long-range Airbus 340.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President, may be the only world leader still singing Col. Gadhafi's praises. "Long live Libya and its independence! Gadhafi is facing a civil war," Mr. Chavez said on Twitter. Earlier reports that Col. Gadhafi - once called a great "liberator" by Mr. Chavez and given a replica of Simon Bolivar's sword to seal their friendship - was already Venezuela-bound were denied.

Some suggest that Robert Mugabe, another international pariah and aging African potentate whose brutality and mismanagement has impoverished Zimbabwe, might offer him a bolt hole.

"Gaddafi's private plane is loaded with gold bullion and lots of hard currency, mainly dollars, and is preparing to flee to Zimbabwe to stay there with his friend Robert Mugabe," said Guma el-Gamaty, a Libyan writer living in exile. Others claim Mr. Mugabe has deployed commandos aboard a chartered Russian military transport to help defend Col. Gadhafi's last stand.

However, there are conflicting reports about whether the chumminess has soured. Col. Gadhafi once proposed that he should be king of all Africa with Mr. Mugabe as the continent's prime minister but that the Zimbabwean leader was miffed when his Libyan friend shook hands with former British prime minister Tony Blair a couple of years ago.