Rebels say no to cease-fire proposal
Insist Khadafy, sons leave Libya
BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan rebels, backed forcefully by European leaders, rejected a cease-fire proposal by African mediators yesterday because it did not insist that Moammar Khadafy relinquish power.
A day after an announcement that the Libyan leader had accepted the truce, a doctor in rebel-held Misurata said Khadafy’s forces battered that western city and its Mediterranean port with artillery fire that killed six people.
“He is the biggest lie in the history of Libya,’’ said Jilal Tajouri, 42, who joined more than 1,000 flag-waving protesters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi as the African Union delegation arrived.
“All the people in Libya agree on this: Khadafy and all his sons must leave Libya so we can have democracy,’’ Tajouri said, echoing the opposition of other demonstrators to any deal making while Khadafy remains in power.
The rebels’ leadership council agreed. “Colonel Khadafy and his sons must leave immediately if he wants to save himself. If not, the people are coming for him,’’ said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, a former justice minister who split with Khadafy and heads the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council.
Abdul-Jalil said the African Union proposal “did not respond to the aspirations of the Libyan people’’ and involved only political reforms.
“The initiative that was presented today, its time has passed,’’ he said. “We will not negotiate on the blood of our martyrs. We will die with them or be victorious.’’
The protesters in Benghazi said they had little faith in the visiting African Union mediators, most of them allies of Khadafy. Three of the five African leaders who came preaching democracy for Libya seized power in coups.
South African President Jacob Zuma led the group, whose other key participants were the leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Republic of Congo, and Uganda.
An Algerian member of the AU delegation had said there was discussion in the meeting with Khadafy of the demands for his exit, but he refused to divulge details.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini strongly backed the rebel demand for Khadafy’s immediate departure and said he doubted that the Libyan leader would have abided by the cease-fire after breaking more than one previous pledge to halt violence. The AU sought a suspension of three weeks of international airstrikes that have prevented Khadafy’s forces from overpowering the vastly weaker rebel forces.
Nevertheless, the secretary general of NATO, which took over control of the international air operation from the United States, welcomed any efforts to resolve the conflict. He said it had become clear it would not be decided on the battlefield.
“There can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya,’’ Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
Khadafy’s forces, meanwhile, shelled Misurata despite the African Union delegation’s assurance that Khadafy had accepted the cease-fire plan at a meeting late Sunday in Tripoli. A doctor who lives in the city said the shelling began overnight and continued intermittently throughout the day yesterday.
He said six people, one of them a 3-year-old girl, were killed by missiles that slammed into residential areas. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation if discovered by Khadafy’s forces.
Weeks of fierce government bombardment of Misurata, the only major city in the western half of Libya that remains under partial rebel control, have terrorized its residents. Dozens have been killed and food and medical supplies are scarce, according to residents, doctors, and rights groups.
Wary of Khadafy’s earlier broken cease-fire pledges, European officials supported the rebels’ refusal to negotiate until Khadafy and his powerful sons and associates are gone.
“The sons and the family of Khadafy cannot participate in the political future of Libya,’’ Frattini said on France’s Europe-1 radio. He said Khadafy’s departure would have to happen “in parallel’’ with any cease-fire.
He said he was lobbying allies to arm the rebels but that he was against expanding the international operation to include ground forces. The rebels have far less equipment, training, and troops than Khadafy’s forces, and members of the international community have grown doubtful the opposition can overthrow Khadafy even with air support.
NATO is operating under a UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and airstrikes to protect Libyan civilians.
Libya’s former foreign minister Moussa Koussa gave a statement to BBC Arabic saying Khadafy and the rebels must not allow the country to slide into civil war. Koussa warned Libya could become a “new Somalia.’’