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Diplomatic efforts heat up in Libya

Renewed diplomatic efforts to halt Libya's civil war appear to be gaining momentum as Nato airstrikes once again hit Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli.

Officials in the capital have said they are open to international efforts that would bring an end to four months of fighting between forces loyal to the leader and rebels who control the eastern third of the country along with pockets in the west.

But they insist that Gaddafi will not bow to international pressure to push him aside.

"We don't accept anything that may be done against him. He is a red line in our discussions," Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said. Any deal that would partition the country is also unacceptable, he added.

One of Gaddafi's sons told an Italian newspaper that while his father would not seek exile, elections under international supervision could offer a way out. A vote could be organised within three months, he said.

The son, Saif al-Islam, told Corriere della Sera that Gaddafi would step aside if he lost, which the son said was unlikely. He acknowledged, however, that "my father's regime as it developed since 1969 is dead".

In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland rejected the idea of elections in Libya. She said: "It's a little late for any proposals by Gaddafi and his circles for democratic change. It's time for him to go."

Gaddafi's son, once groomed to succeed his father, has served as his main spokesman during the conflict, but like Gaddafi himself, has been rarely heard from in recent weeks.

Russia's envoy to Libya met with senior government leaders in Tripoli - but apparently not Gaddafi himself - hours after Nato war planes attacked the area near the leader's Bab al-Aziziya compound. Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov met in Tripoli with al-Mahmoudi and Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi.

Last week, Margelov visited the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and said that Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy. However, the envoy also said Nato airstrikes are not a solution to Libya's violent stalemate.

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