* Misrata wounded talk of massacre, despite army denial
* Libya "ready for political solution" but Gaddafi must stay
* Al Qaeda acquiring weapons in Libya - Algerian official
(Adds more from government spokesman, report from Zintan)
By Maria Golovnina and Tarek Amara
TRIPOLI/SFAX, Tunisia, April 4 Forces loyal to
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are staging a "massacre" in the
besieged city of Misrata, evacuees said on Monday, as Libya said
it was ready to discuss political reform, led by Gaddafi.
Libyan TV showed footage of Gaddafi saluting supporters
outside his fortified compound in Tripoli. But some residents of
the capital, angered by fuel shortages and long queues for basic
goods caused by a popular revolt and Western sanctions and air
strikes, began openly predicting his imminent downfall.
Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Libya was ready for
a "political solution" with world powers. [nLDE733293]
"We could have any political system, any changes:
constitution, election, anything. But the leader has to lead
this forward," he told reporters when asked about the content of
negotiations with other countries.
With Libya in chaos, an official in neighbouring Algeria
told Reuters al Qaeda was exploiting the conflict to acquire
weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.
The U.S. State Department said it had raised concerns with
the Libyan rebels about the Islamist group obtaining arms in the
east of the country, where they are battling Gaddafi's forces.
More on Middle East unrest: [nTOPMEAST] [nLDE71O2CH]
Libya Graphics link.reuters.com/neg68r
Interactive graphic link.reuters.com/puk87r
Evacuees from Misrata, the rebels' last major stronghold in
western Libya, described the city as "hell". They said Gaddafi's
troops were using tanks and snipers against residents, littering
the streets with corpses and filling hospitals with the wounded.
"You have to visit Misrata to see the massacre by Gaddafi,"
said Omar Boubaker, a 40-year-old engineer with a bullet wound
to the leg, brought to the Tunisian port of Sfax by a French aid
group. "Corpses are in the street. Hospitals are overflowing."
Misrata rose up with other towns against Gaddafi last month
but most others have been retaken by government forces.
"I could live or die, but I am thinking of my family and
friends who are stranded in the hell of Misrata," said tearful
evacuee Abdullah Lacheeb, who had serious injuries to his pelvis
and stomach and a bullet wound in his leg.
"Imagine, they use tanks against civilians. He (Gaddafi) is
prepared to kill everyone there."
State TV showed what it said was live footage of Gaddafi
briefly waving to supporters through the roof of a Jeep outside
his compound while bodyguards tried to prevent them mobbing him.
But in the lanes of Tripoli's medieval market, some openly
forecast his fall as rebels battle his forces in eastern Libya.
"People from the east will come here. Maybe in two weeks,"
said one entrepreneur who asked that his name not be used for
fear of reprisals. "But now, people are afraid."
Stalemate on the frontline in the east, defections from
Gaddafi's circle and the plight of civilians caught in fighting,
or facing shortages, have prompted a flurry of diplomacy.
Turkey said it was seeking to broker a ceasefire as an envoy
from Gaddafi's government travelled to Ankara from Athens.
"Turkey will continue to do its best to end the suffering
and to contribute to the process of making a road map that
includes the political demands of Libyan people," Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Turkey also expected envoys from the rebel National Council
soon, he added. A Turkish official said both sides "conveyed
that they have some opinions about a possible ceasefire".
ITALY SAYS GADDAFI MUST GO
Spokesman Ibrahim said Libya was ready to listen to outside
reform proposals and "try our best to meet you in the middle".
But he added: "No one can come to the Libyan nation and say
to them: 'You have to lose your leader, or your system, or your
regime' ... Who are you to say that?"
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini dismissed Libya's
stance. "A solution for the future of Libya has a pre-condition:
that Gaddafi's regime leaves and is out and that Gaddafi himself
and his family leave the country," he said.
In Washington, the U.S. Treasury said it had lifted
sanctions against former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa
in the hope that other senior officials would defect. [nWNA5394]
Koussa fled to Britain last week.
Scottish police, who want to question him over the 1988
Lockerbie airliner bombing, for which Libya accepted
responsibility and paid compensation to relatives of the 270
dead, were expected to meet him within days. [ID:nLDE732046]
U.N.-mandated air strikes to protect civilians, led by the
United States, France and Britain, have so far failed to halt
attacks in Misrata by the Libyan army.
At least five people died when Gaddafi's forces shelled a
residential area of the city late on Monday, a doctor said.
"The reception in the hospital is full. Five people were
confirmed killed in the last two hours and five more are in a
critical condition," the doctor, who gave his name as Ramadan,
told Reuters by phone from the city.
Libyan officials deny attacking civilians in Misrata, saying
they are fighting armed gangs linked to al Qaeda. Accounts from
Misrata cannot be independently verified as Libyan authorities
are not allowing journalists to report freely from there.
A Turkish ship that sailed into Misrata to rescue 250
wounded was protected by Turkish warplanes and warships and had
to leave in a hurry after thousands pressed forward on the dock,
pleading to be evacuated. Another ship operated by Medecins Sans
Frontieres docked in Sfax with 71 wounded from Misrata.
Abdel Rahman, a witness from Zintan, another rebel hold-out
160 km southwest of Tripoli, said the situation there was grim.
"Gaddafi's militias are still besieging the town. Petrol is
running short and most cars are parked. Few people drive their
cars. We are also worried that if this goes on for much longer,
we will have food shortages too...
"Coalition aircraft fly over but they don't hit the tanks,
military vehicles and soldiers surrounding Zintan."
AL QAEDA CONVOY
In Algiers, a senior security official said that Al Qaeda in
the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamist group's regional wing,
was getting hold of weapons in eastern Libya. [ID:nLDE7331B9]
The Algerian official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said a convoy of eight Toyota pick-up trucks had left eastern
Libya and headed via Chad and Niger to northern Mali, where in
the past few days it had delivered a cargo of weapons.
"We know that this is not the first convoy and that it is
still ongoing," the official said. "Several military barracks
have been pillaged in this region (eastern Libya) with their
arsenals and weapons stores, and the elements of AQIM who were
present could not have failed to profit from this opportunity."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said
the United States had raised its concerns with the rebels.
Gaddafi says the uprising is fuelled by Islamist radicals
and Western nations who want to control Libya's oil. The rebels,
whose stronghold is the eastern city of Benghazi, say they only
want the removal of Gaddafi and his circle.
After chasing each other up and down the coast road linking
the oil ports of eastern Libya with Gaddafi's tribal heartland
further west, the two sides are stuck around Brega, a sparsely
populated settlement spread over more than 25 km (15 miles).
(Additional reporting by Angus MacSwan in Benghazi, Tulay
Karadeniz and Simon Cameron-Moore in Ankara, Lamine Chikhi and
Christian Lowe in Algiers, Ibon Villelabeitia and Tom Pfeiffer
in Cairo, Joseph Nasr in Berlin, Justyna Pawlak in Brussels,
Karolina Tagaris in London; Writing by David Stamp and Kevin
Liffey; editing by Philippa Fletcher)