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Defiant Gaddafi calls for talks on Libya

News18

Updated: April 30, 2011, 8:33 PM IST
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Defiant Gaddafi calls for talks on Libya
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed not to quit, but said he was ready for a ceasefire and negotiations.

Tripoli: Defiant Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed on Saturday not to quit, but said he was ready for a "ceasefire and negotiations" as NATO bombed a key government complex in Tripoli while the Libyan regime stepped up the offensive in the besieged western city of Misurata.

"I'm not leaving my country," 68-year old Gaddafi said in a speech on state television in the early hours on Saturday.

He said "no one can force me to leave my country" - a key condition of the Libyan rebels seeking the end of the 41-year rule of Gaddafi.

Striking a conciliatory note, he called for a ceasefire and negotiations with NATO to stop the punishing air strikes in Libya.

"[Libya] is ready until now to enter a ceasefire... but a ceasefire cannot be from one side," he said.

The Libyan strongman blamed the western nations for the violence in his country.

"We did not attack them or cross the sea... why are they attacking us? Let us negotiate with you, the countries that attack us. Let us negotiate," he said.

Al Jazeera channel quoted the state television as saying that NATO air strikes had hit a site in Tripoli close to the television building during Gaddafi's address.

"A building adjacent to the Jamahiriya building was bombed during the broadcast of Muammar Gaddafi's speech and that implies a target on the leader of the revolution himself," the report said.

Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam vowed that the government will "fight NATO for 40 years" if necessary.

"We will not raise the white flag of surrender," he was quoted as saying in the media yesterday during a visit to a hospital to meet wounded people in NATO air strikes.

Meanwhile, Libyan government said it will not allow any sea deliveries to Misurata, which has been besieged for over seven weeks, sparking a humanitarian crisis.

It threatened to attack any ships trying to enter the lifeline rebel-held port, after tanks pounded Misurata.

BBC quoted government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim as saying that the opposition fighters in Misurata would be given an amnesty if they lay down their arms in four days.

However, he warned of "total fire" if the rebels continued to fight in the besieged city, 215 km east of Tripoli.

Even as the Libyan forces continued to shell the port city, it was trying to lay mines off Misurata. BBC quoted a NATO commander as saying that the mines were being disposed of.

Fierce fighting erupted between the rebels and the government troops for the control of Misurata's airport while the Libyan regime stepped up the pounding of the third largest city.

Reports said at least 15 were feared killed and many more wounded ahead of the speech by Gadhafi.

Government forces have been trying to take control of Misurata from rebels in several weeks of fighting as the port is a lifeline suppling food and medicine, and facilitating the evacuation of the wounded and stranded migrant workers in the face of the humanitarian disaster.

Gaddafi made light of the rebellion against his regime, blaming it on mercenaries and foreigners. They were "terrorists who are not from Libya, but from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Afghanistan," he said.

"You are the aggressors. We will negotiate with you. Come, France, Italy, UK, America, come, we will negotiate with you. Why are you attacking us?"

At the same time, he warned that NATO forces would die if they put ground troops in Libya. "Either freedom or death. No surrender. No fear. No departure," he said.

Earlier ceasefire offers by the embattled leader have been rebuffed by NATO as his forces refused to end the fighting.

The opposition's Transitional National Council (TNC), which functions as a parallel government in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, on Sunday dismissed calls for talks and negotiations by Gaddafi, saying he had no role to play in the future of the country.

"The time for compromise has passed," said Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the council.

"The people of Libya cannot possibly envisage or accept a future Libya in which the Gaddafi regime plays any role," he underlined.

The Libyan conflict has spilled over the border as pro-Gaddafi forces pushed back the rebels from Dehiba, a Tunisian border town, and clashed with the Tunisian military on Friday. The rebels had seized the border post on April 21, and Gaddafi's troops have been trying to retake it.

Amid the growing humanitarian crisis inside Misurata, aid agencies and human rights groups have sounded alarm bells.

The UN has warned of a massive food shortages within two months in Libya unless stocks are replenished and distribution networks are streamlined.

Heavy shelling of Misurata's port has disrupted humanitarian supplies and evacuation, amid fears that over 1,000 people have been killed since the fighting erupted in mid-February.

In his speech on Saturday, Gaddafi denied mass killing of civilians and challenged NATO to show him 1,000 people who had died in the conflict.

On the diplomatic front, the conflict has brought out the growing division among the international community, with Russia and China critical of the targeting of the Libyan regime by NATO air strikes.

Moscow and Beijing have described the air strikes as being outside the mandate of UNSC resolution that authorised the 'no fly' zone in Libya to protect the civilians.

Now US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to travel to Rome next week to discuss ways with key allies to protect civilians caught in cross-fire.

Scheduled from May 4 to May 6, a meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Rome will build on the last such meeting in Doha and will allow the US to discuss with its international partners the ongoing implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.

"Secretary Clinton will also conduct a series of bilateral meetings, including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Giorgio Napolitano, and Foreign MinisterFranco Frattini," Toner said.

First Published: April 30, 2011, 8:33 PM IST
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