(Adds Qatar on new alliance replacing NATO)
* Gaddafi son seeks to surrender to court
* No confirmation of negotiations from desert
* Qatar: asked to head post-NATO group backing Libya
By Barry Malone and Maria Golovnina
TRIPOLI, Oct 26 Saif al-Islam Gaddafi wants to
turn himself in to The Hague war crimes court, a senior Libyan
official told Reuters on Wednesday.
On the run in the desert, fearing for his life after his
father was captured and slain and despairing of any safe haven
across an African border, the 39-year-old once expected to
inherit dynastic power from Muammar Gaddafi now saw a Dutch
prison cell as his best option, the official said.
With him was his relative, former intelligence chief
Abdullah al-Senussi, the third man indicted along with the two
Gaddafis by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after their
crackdown on the popular revolt that began in February.
"They are proposing a way to hand themselves over to The
Hague," said Abdel Majid Mlegta, a senior military official for
the National Transitional Council. NTC forces toppled Gaddafi in
August and overran his hometown and final bastion of Sirte a
week ago, capturing the fallen strongman, who was then killed.
An ICC spokesman said it had no confirmation of any talks.
It had hoped to try Muammar Gaddafi himself for crimes
against humanity, although Libya's NTC also wanted to have him
face justice at home. In the event, the 69-year-old was seized
by NTC fighters who filmed themselves beating him before he
died, although it remains unclear who killed him.
His rotting corpse was displayed to the public for four days
before being buried in a secret desert grave on Tuesday.
Mlegta, citing intelligence sources, said Saif al-Islam,
whose British education and talk of liberal reforms once put him
at the heart of a rapprochement between his father and the West,
was somewhere in the Libyan Sahara far to the south, trying to
get an unnamed country to broker a deal with the ICC.
With Senussi, he had contemplated escape into either
Algeria, which has taken in his mother, sister and two brothers,
or to Niger, where another brother found refuge. However, Mlegta
said: "They feel that it is not safe for them to stay where they
are or to go anywhere."
Further confirmation of the fugitives' situation was not
immediately possible. Mlegta said that, although the Gaddafi
family was assumed to have great wealth hidden away, Saif
al-Islam lacked the funds to buy safe passage into Niger.
The transformation of Saif al-Islam's image, from that of a
relaxed, English-speaking pragmatist into a maker of
blood-curdling threats against the "rats" who rose up against
his father, saw him join the elder Gaddafi on the ICC wanted
His flight and possible capture may not extinguish
opposition to the NTC, which on Sunday declared Libya
"liberated" after 42 years of Gaddafi's rule and is now working
toward forming a government that can hold free elections.
At the pro-Gadaffi tribal stronghold of Bani Walid, where a
captive aide to Saif al-Islam told Reuters Gaddafi's son was
hiding until last week, tribesmen incensed by retribution from
NTC forces warned they were readying an insurgency.
"The Warfalla tribe is boiling inside. They can't wait to do
something about this," Abu Abdurakhman, a local resident, said
during a tour of his house destroyed by what he said was a
revenge attack by anti-Gaddafi forces.
"The Warfalla men of Tripoli and elsewhere are sending
around text messages saying: 'We need to gather and do something
about this. Let's gather! Let's gather!'"
Libya lacks the sectarian divide and proximity to competing
regional powers that turned U.S.-occupied Iraq into a killing
ground after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
But it is awash with weapons and with long-standing regional
and ethnic rivalries and resentments that could prolong
instability as its new leaders and their foreign allies seek to
exploit Libya's big oil and gas reserves.
On a pro-Gaddafi website, Zangetna.com, supporters declared:
"We promise you, martyred leader, that we will follow your path
and we swear to the creator of heaven and earth the blood of
martyrs will not be shed in vain." They swore allegiance to "the
holy warrior" Saif al-Islam Muammar Gaddafi, calling on him to
An account of the younger Gaddafi's last days in Bani Walid
suggest a degree of panic, however, as his enemies closed in.
"He was nervous. He had a Thuraya (satellite phone) and he
called his father many times," said al-Senussi Sharif
al-Senussi, an officer who was part of Saif al-Islam's personal
security team until Bani Walid fell to the NTC on Oct. 17.
"He repeated to us: don't tell anyone where I am. Don't let
them spot me. He was afraid of mortars. He seemed confused."
The NATO alliance whose air power tipped the balance of
eight months of fighting in favour of the motley rebel forces
says that it sees no immediate military threat and plans to wind
up its mission.
But the head of the NTC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, called at a
meeting with military allies in Qatar for NATO assistance to
continue until the end of the year.
NATO responded to his remarks by postponing until later this
week a meeting that had been expected to formalise a decision to
end its Libya mission at the end of the month.
Qatar's top general, Chief of Staff Major-General Hamad bin
Ali al-Attiyah, said in remarks carried by Al Jazeera television
that Western countries had proposed setting up a new alliance to
support Libya after the NATO mission ended.
"And they have asked that it be headed by Qatar because Qatar
is a friend of theirs and a close friend of Libya," he added
without giving further details.
Abdel Jalil said he wanted NATO help in stopping Gaddafi
loyalists escaping justice. But NATO officials at their Brussels
headquarters recalled that their U.N. mandate was to protect
civilians, not target individuals -- though it was a NATO
airstrike on a motorcade in Sirte that led to the elder
Military experts say NATO's aerial and satellite power would
be stretched to detect fleeing convoys in the vast Sahara, which
is also out of realistic range for a mission to strike such
vehicles, even if NATO's mandate were interpreted to allow it.
(Additional reporting by Samia Nakhoul in Dubai, Regan Doherty
in Doha, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations and David
Brunnstrom in Brussels; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing
by Tim Pearce)