Libya wants more talks as NATO strikes hit capital

TRIPOLI, Libya Sat Jul 23, 2011 10:52am EDT

1 of 14. A rebel fighter with weapons stands in a vehicle outside the Bir-Ayyad gate near the city of Zintan in the western mountains, 120 km (75 miles) southwest of the capital Tripoli, July 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

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TRIPOLI, Libya (Reuters) - Libya is ready to hold more talks with the United States and with rebels trying to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, but the Libyan leader will not bow to demands he quit, a government spokesman said.

Moussa Ibrahim said Libyan officials had a "productive dialogue" with U.S. counterparts last week in a rare meeting that followed American recognition of the rebel government that hopes to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

"Other meetings in the future ... will help solve Libyan problems," the spokesman told reporters in Tripoli late on Friday. "We are willing to talk to the Americans more."

He said Gaddafi would not leave his position nor Libya.

Hours later NATO planes bombed targets in the capital, causing damage and casualties, Libyan state television said, without giving details.

NATO said it had hit a "command and control node."

A Reuters witness heard at least six blasts early on Saturday, the largest to hit the capital in several weeks, four of them shaking the hotel hosting international media.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Gaddafi must agree publicly to stand down before any talks could begin.

"There are no negotiations with this regime unless he declares his departure and that he is stepping down, he and his sons, from power," he said in a weekly statement to Libyans broadcast on rebel-run television.

As Gaddafi clings to power despite five months of civil war and a NATO bombing campaign authorized by a U.N. resolution, the West is increasingly hoping for a negotiated settlement.

But the United States also says Gaddafi must go.

Ibrahim said Libyan officials - but not Gaddafi himself - would be willing to hold further meetings with rebels, who now control roughly half of Libya, only on the government's terms.

"Nations do not negotiate with armed gangs," he said. Gaddafi is urging Libyans to persuade rebels to disarm and rejoin the loyal fold -- and to fight them if they don't.

His comments came as Libya reported a NATO airstrike near the eastern oil hub of Brega, the scene of recent fighting, which the government said killed six guards at a water plant.

NATO said the strike targeted a "military storage facility" rather than the water pipeline plant.

UN PLAN

As Western nations intensify diplomatic efforts, a European diplomat said a U.N. envoy would seek to persuade the warring parties to accept a plan that envisages a ceasefire and a power-sharing government, but with no role for Gaddafi.

The diplomat said the informal proposals would be canvassed by the special U.N. envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, who has met both government and rebels several times.

Jalil, who heads the rebels' Transitional National Council that many Western nations now recognize as the Libyan authority, told Reuters on Saturday that Khatib's plan for power-sharing could be discussed as long as Gaddafi himself was out.

"Any diplomatic solutions are acceptable if they include this main condition," he said.

A rebel spokesman told Reuters that Khatib would come to their eastern stronghold of Benghazi early next week.

Poorly armed rebels seem unlikely to quickly unseat Gaddafi. They declared advances this week but they also suffered losses near their enclave of Misrata and in fighting for Brega.

Gaddafi has stepped up his defiant rhetoric amid persistent reports of talks. Pro-government rallies are being shown almost daily on state television, perhaps a reminder to outsiders that he can still command considerable support.

EGYPT

On Friday, thousands gathered near Tripoli's historic center for the unveiling of a massive likeness of the longtime leader.

State television said Gaddafi would make another speech on Saturday, this time addressed to Egyptians on the anniversary of their revolution -- not this year's, which toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but pan-Arabist Gamal Abdel-Nasser's in 1959.

Nasser was a role model for Gaddafi who seized power in a coup as a young revolutionary.

Spokesman Ibrahim denied a rebel report that Mansour Daw, a key aide to Gaddafi, had been wounded in a rebel rocket attack in Tripoli on Thursday. He said there had been an explosion but it was caused by a kitchen gas cylinder.

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Benghazi; Writing by Missy Ryan and Richard Meares; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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Comments (6)
SteveAbbott wrote:
“There are no negotiations with this regime unless he declares his departure and that he is stepping down, he and his sons, from power,”

Fair is fair. Let the leaders of both factions stand down and then talk to each other. What kind of idiot says they will negotiate with the opposing faction as soon as they leave power?

“As Gaddafi clings to power despite five months of civil war and a NATO bombing campaign authorized by a U.N. resolution, the West is increasingly hoping for a negotiated settlement…
But the United States also says Gaddafi must go.”

Rewriting history? The civil war was created out of whole cloth by NATO’s intervention, and the UN resolution authorised a no-fly zone, which is a far different thing from a bombing campaign.

As for a negotiated settlement, see above. What kind of an idiot…

Jul 23, 2011 3:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Szbignewski wrote:
Well, every schoolyard bragger/bully wants to “talk” once he is finally getting his butt whipped. Most of the time it’s a little late for that.

Everybody has willing to “talk” to Moammar for the past 40 years. All he ever did was rant and rave and thumb his nose.

Now, the time for “talking” has passed.

Jul 23, 2011 4:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Szbignewski wrote:
This is not about “fair”. The “negotiations” that will take place when Moammar (perhaps) announces he will step down only concern the method and manner of his exile and imprisonment and issues such as the immunity of his family from prosecution.

Of course, he can always lead his devotees to utter destruction, then put a pistol in his mouth like Hitler. Or, he can “negotiate”.

This is all about powers-that-be who have had completely enough of Moammar and have decided, irrevocably, to relegate him to history.

Any “idiocy” would be in the assumption that the dialog surrounding this conflict is ever likely to be some kind of fair and open discussion. It’s not a debate in sociology class, it’s the end (finally) of Moammar. Whether or not that’s nice, or fair, or whether the above mentioned powers-that-be are being less than impartial in their application of justice is entirely irrelevant.

Jul 23, 2011 5:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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