x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Libya's rebels snub AU cease-fire plan

Head of Libya¿s rebel council yesterday rejected an African Union cease-fire plan that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi had accepted because it doesn't meet their demand that he give up power.

BENGHAZI, LIBYA //

Libya's rebels rejected an African Union cease-fire plan yesterday that Muammar Qaddafi had accepted because it doesn't meet their demand that he give up power. "Qaddafi must leave immediately if he wants to survive," the head of Libya's rebel council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said at a televised news conference in Benghazi. The African Union said in an emailed statement yesterday that Col Qaddafi agreed to end hostilities immediately and hold talks "with the view to adopting and implementing the political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis." There was no mention of Col Qaddafi stepping down as part of the agreement. "The initiative that was presented by the African Union doesn't satisfy the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom and doesn't provide for the removal of Qaddafi," Abdulhafid Ghoga, spokesman of the Interim Transational National Council, said in Benghazi. "It speaks about reforming the system from within, and this is rejected."

But the diplomatic efforts are not over. Mr Jalil confirmed a military and political rebel delegation left Libya to go to Rome last night.

The African Union roadmap provides for an immediate cease-fire, the delivery of humanitarian aid, the protection of foreigners in Libya, a dialogue between the regime and the rebel National Council aimed at establishing a transitional government and other reforms.

There is no mention of a departure of Mr Qaddafi and his sons.

For many people in Eastern Libya, any plan that does not include the end of the Qaddafi era "is seen as a continuation of this regime", said Ramadan Jarbou, a Benghazi-based writer who is part of a group of academics who are working on building opposition institutions. He said the AU got involved only because of the financial aid the Libyan government has given to it over the years.

"Qaddafi spent millions of dollars in Africa. For these leaders the plan is a sort of payback," Mr Jarbou said.

Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, told France's Europe-1 radio yesterday that "the sons and the family of Qaddafi cannot participate in the political future of Libya,"

Yesterday, as thousands of protesters gathered in front of a Benghazi hotel shouting anti-Qaddafi's slogans, leaders of the African Union met with the heads of the National Transitional Council. "We want France and Europe to help us, not Africa. They sent mercenaries to Libya to fight against us," said Mustafa Ali, a 17-year-old holding a French flag in the crowd.

Amadou Toumani Touré, the Mali president, said: "When there is a conflict and there are negotations, it can take time. We need patience. This is a start and we need to smooth the hatred."

Jacob Zuma, the South African president, met Mr Qaddafi on Sunday but left Libya immediately after because of previous committments. He called on Nato to halt air strikes against regime forces.

On Sunday, Nato planes took out 11 government army vehicles outside the city of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometers south of Benghazi.

Nato struck the convoy after rebel forces pushed it out of Ajdabiya.

"Now things are getting better. Nato helps us and the coordination improves," Ahmed Salam Giltawi, a rebel fighter, said. "We could have chased Qaddafi forces further, but we are afraid to be hit by Nato strikes."

Nato's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said that military action will not solve the crisis and that he hoped for a political solution soon to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the country's instability.

"I want to be clear. There can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya," he said in Brussels. "Nato welcomes all contributions to the broad international effort to stop the violence against the civilian population."

 

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Bloomberg and Agence France-Presse