March 18, 2011 / 8:32 AM / 7 years ago

In Libya's east, Gaddafi seen at "end of line"

* Rebels dismiss Libyan ceasefire

* Reports of continued fighting

By Goran Tomasevic and Mohammed Abbas

BENGHAZI/TOBRUK, Libya, March 18 (Reuters) - The Libyan government’s ceasefire declaration on Friday was met by sceptism in the rebel-held east, where many dismissed it as a ruse and some saw it as a sign Muammar Gaddafi had reached a dead-end.

In a hotel lobby in Tobruk, a dozen men watched television in silence as Gaddafi’s foreign minister began a news conference in which he declared a halt to military operations which had resulted in a U.N. resolution against Libya on Thursday.

“See how things change from night to day,” said Ashraf Afgair, an unemployed man. “They are just trying to calm international opinion. It’s a desperate attempt by Gaddafi to cling to power,” he said.

Idris Khamis, a meteorologist, said: “They have reached the end of the line. That’s why they are accepting the U.N. decision. Otherwise it’s the same fate for Gaddafi as Hitler and Mussolini.”

In Benghazi, where the rebel movement is based, reports of continuing fighting in Ajdabiyah to the south fuelled scepticism of Gaddafi’s intentions.

“It’s just on TV. In fact he fights now in Ajdabiyah. He is trying to get more time. He is crazy and will fight till he dies,” said Salah Hussein, 42, a travel agent. Aisha Aftaita, a teacher, added: “Gaddafi is still firing and shooting. He didn’t stop. He is trying to take back Ajdabiyah. There is still heavy fighting there. He is trying to fool everyone.”

Libya said it would “deal positively” with the U.N. resolution. In a news conference broadcast live by Arab satellite channels, Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa also said the Tripoli government would respect human rights — a declaration that triggered cynical laughter from the viewers in Tobruk.

“Can you believe what you are hearing,” said one, waving his hand dismissively at the television screen.

“They talk about human rights. Do you see human rights when a country bombs its own people. He won’t respect the U.N. It’s just TV propaganda,” said Nasser Saeed. Mohammed Farraj added: “Why did he not respect human rights of the Libyan people from the start? We just want him to go. Now.” (Writing by Tom Perry in Cairo; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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