ALGIERS (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi called Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to negotiate a passage into his country but the latter refused to take his call, a local newspaper reported on Thursday.
Algeria announced on Monday that Gaddafi’s wife, two of his sons and his daughter had crossed into its territory, prompting Libya’s ruling interim council to demand that they be handed back to face trial.
Quoting a source close to the Algerian presidency, Algeria’s El Watan newspaper said Gaddafi was believed to be on the Libyan-Algerian border town of Ghadamis.
His location remains unknown more than a week after Tripoli fell to his foes. A top military commander of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) said on Thursday he was believed to be in the desert town of Bani Walid about 150 (95 miles) southeast of Tripoli.
“Gaddafi tried to reach President Bouteflika by phone but he refused to take the call. A presidential adviser excused him saying he was absent and busy with events in Algeria,” El Watan quoted the source as saying in a report on its website.
It was not clear when the call was made.
“It is not the first time that Gaddafi and some of his aides have tried to get in touch with the president for potential negotiations but the Algerian position is clear and neutral and we refuse to get involved in Libya’s internal affairs,” it quoted the source as saying.
No one was immediately available for comment from the Algerian government.
Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Thursday Algeria would not give refuge to Gaddafi himself, although it had allowed Gaddafi’s wife and three of his children to enter the country — a move denounced by the NTC as an act of aggression.
El Watan quoted the source as saying the NTC had been told about Gaddafi family members crossing into Algeria.
Algeria is the only one of Libya’s North African neighbors yet to recognize the NTC, whose fighters have taken control of the capital Tripoli and much of the rest of the country, ending Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.
Medelci said Algeria would recognize Libya’s new leaders when they establish a representative government.
Algerian officials say they are concerned Islamist militants have infiltrated the NTC and that al Qaeda’s North African wing will exploit the chaos in Libya to acquire weapons and explosives.
Editing by Mark Heinrich