Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Libyan opposition offers ceasefire

Libyan rebels have offered a ceasefire if Muammar Gaddafi's troops leave major cities (AP)

A Libyan opposition leader has said the rebels will accept a UN-demanded ceasefire if Muammar Gaddafi pulls his forces from all cities and allows peaceful protests.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil spoke during a joint press conference with UN envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib, who is visiting the rebels' de-facto stronghold of Benghazi in hopes of reaching a ceasefire and political solution to the crisis embroiling the North African nation.

Mr Abdul-Jalil says the rebels' condition for a ceasefire is "that the Gaddafi brigades and forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom."

The offer came as the rebels showed signs of increased organisation as they battled Gaddafi's forces in eastern Libya, and appeared to have more weapons and communications equipment.

Forces loyal to Libya's leader of nearly 42 years spent much of this week pushing the rebels back about 100 miles along the coast, and the opposition was trying to regroup. The rebels now have mortars, weapons they previously appeared to have lacked, and on Thursday night they drove in a convoy with at least eight rocket launchers - more artillery than usual.

The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were working in more organised units, in which military defectors were each leading six or seven volunteers.

Opposition official Ali Tarhouni said the Arab nation of Qatar had agreed to a deal to give the rebels money for weapons and other items in exchange for the oil they control in parts of south-eastern Libya. Mr Tarhouni did not say when the deal was signed or when oil shipments will begin.

Gadhafi's greatest losses this week have been not military but political. Two members of his inner circle, including his foreign minister, abandoned him on Wednesday and Thursday, setting off speculation about other officials who may be next. The defections could sway people who have stuck with Gaddafi despite the uprising that began on February 15 and the international air strikes aimed at keeping the autocrat from attacking his own people.

Libya's chief of intelligence dismissed rumours that he is among the government insiders who have abandoned their embattled leader. Libyan state TV aired a phone interview with intelligence chief Bouzeid Dorda, who said: "I am in Libya and will remain here steadfast in the same camp of the revolution despite everything. I never thought to cross the borders or violate commitment to the people, the revolution and the leader."

The White House said Gaddafi's inner circle is clearly crumbling with the loss of foreign minister Musa Kusa, who flew from Tunisia to England on Wednesday, while Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister and UN General Assembly president, announced his departure on several opposition websites the next day.

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