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Stronghold surrender talks fail

Negotiations held primarily with Muammar Gaddafi's chief spokesman over the peaceful surrender of a regime stronghold have failed, a rebel spokesman has said.

Abdullah Kanshil, a rebel negotiator outside Bani Walid, told reporters that opposition fighters stationed outside the town are waiting for the green light to launch a final assault on the town.

He said talks with Moussa Ibrahim have failed because Ibrahim wants the rebels to disarm. The rebels have said the hard-core loyalists are a small minority inside Bani Walid, but are heavily armed and stoking fear to keep other residents from surrendering.

"We feel sorry for the people of Bani Walid," said Mr Kanshil, himself a Bani Walid native. "We hope for the best for our city."

He said Moussa Ibrahim was inside the city with other regime loyalists and heavily armed supporters.

The claim could not be verified and rebel officials have given conflicting statements about the situation in Bani Walid after giving residents there and in other areas that remain loyal to Gaddafi a Saturday deadline to surrender or face an attack.

Rebel forces control most of the oil-rich North African nation and are already setting up a new government, but Gaddafi and his staunchest allies remain on the run and enjoy support in several central and southern areas.

Nato, meanwhile, reported bombing a military barracks, a police camp and several other targets near the southern stronghold of Sirte overnight, as well as targets near Hun, a possible staging ground in the desert halfway between Sirte and Sabha. It also reported bombing an ammunition storage facility near Bani Walid. Sirte is Gaddafi's hometown.

Nato has been bombing Gaddafi's forces since March under a United Nations mandate to protect Libyan civilians. But that mandate expires on September 27, and the rebels may be anxious to end the fight before it runs out - since it may be politically difficult to get it renewed.

Thousands of rebel fighters have converged on Bani Walid in recent days, with some just 10 miles from the town centre.

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