TRIPOLI // Colonel Muammar Qaddafi will not leave Libya, the South African president Jacob Zuma said yesterday after talks with the Libyan leader.
But new questions emerged over how long Colonel Qaddafi could hold on after a senior United Nations aid official said that shortages of food and medicine in areas of Libya that are controlled by Colonel Qaddafi amounted to a "time bomb".
Within hours of Mr Zuma's departure from Tripoli late on Monday, Libyan television reported that Nato aircraft had resumed attacks, striking what it called civilian and military sites in Tripoli and Tajoura.
Mr Zuma was in Tripoli to try to revive an African "road map" for ending the conflict, which started in February with an uprising against Col Qaddafi and has since turned into a war with thousands of people killed. The talks produced no breakthrough, with Colonel Qaddafi's refusal to quit - a condition that the rebels and Nato have set as a precondition for any ceasefire - still the sticking point.
"Colonel Qaddafi called for an end to the bombings to enable a Libyan dialogue," Mr Zuma's office said in a statement. "He emphasised that he was not prepared to leave his country, despite the difficulties."
Mr Zuma also said that Colonel Qaddafi's personal safety "is a concern" - a reference to Nato strikes that have repeatedly hit the Libyan leader's Bab al Aziziyah compound and other locations used by him and his family.
Now in its fourth month, Libya's conflict is deadlocked, with anti-Qaddafi rebels unable to break out of their strongholds and advance towards Tripoli, where Col Qaddafi appears to be firmly entrenched.
Panos Moumtzis, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, told reporters in Tripoli that some food stocks in areas under Colonel Qaddafi's control were likely to last weeks.
"I don't think there's any famine, malnutrition. But the longer the conflict lasts the more the food stocks supplies are going to be depleted, and it's a matter of weeks before the country reaches a critical situation," Mr Moumtzis said in an interview.
"The food and the medical supplies is a little bit like a time bomb. At the moment it's under control and it's OK. But if this goes on for quite some time, this will become a major issue."
Libyan television broadcast footage of Colonel Qaddafi welcoming Mr Zuma, his first public appearance since May 11. Speculation had been swirling that Colonel Qaddafi was injured in a Nato strike or had fled Tripoli.