What you need to know:
- Anti-regime fighters demand Gaddafi withdraw troops from streets and freedom of expression
A delegation of African heads of state met Libyan rebel leaders in their stronghold of Benghazi today to try to sell a peace plan already accepted by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime but Nato chiefs warned that any deal must be “credible and verifiable”.
But the rebels were demanding that any ceasefire should require the withdrawal of government troops from the streets and freedom of expression.
Near Ajdabiya, one of the two rebel helicopters shot down over the weekend was found with three bodies inside but one man had survived, a doctor said.
Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini said Gaddafi and his sons should play no role in Libyan politics when a resolution is found to the current conflict.
Around 200 people waving rebel flags were gathered outside the airport at Benghazi when the high-level African Union delegation arrived, welcoming its efforts but demanding Gaddafi’s overthrow.
“The people must be allowed to go into the streets to express their opinion and the soldiers must return to their barracks,” Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a spokesman for the rebels’ Transitional National Council, told AFP.
“If people are free to come out and demonstrate in Tripoli, then that’s it. I imagine all of Libya will be liberated within moments.”
He also demanded the release of hundreds of people who have gone missing since the outbreak of the popular uprising and are believed to be held by Gaddafi’s forces.
South African President Jacob Zuma said Tripoli had accepted the African Union’s plan for a ceasefire which would halt a Nato bombing campaign that destroyed 26 loyalist tanks on Sunday alone.
“We also in this communique are making a call on Nato to cease the bombings to allow and to give a ceasefire a chance,” Zuma stressed.
Negotiate political transition
But the rebels doubt the Libyan strongman would adhere to such a deal.
“The world has seen these offers of ceasefires before and within 15 minutes (Gaddafi) starts shooting again,” Abdulmolah said.
The rebels have said they would negotiate a political transition to democracy with certain senior regime figures but only on the condition that Gaddafi and his sons leave the country.
The South African leader is taking no further part in the talks as he was leaving Libya to return home due to prior commitments.
The other members of the AU team — the leaders of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, as well as Ugandan Foreign minister Henry Oryem Okello, representing President Yoweri Museveni — all arrived in Benghazi, 1,000 kilometres east of Tripoli.
Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels: “Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable.” He noted that the UN Security Council resolution authorising military action in Libya calls for a “complete end to violence” against civilians. He added that any solution to the crisis “must respond to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people for political reforms.”
The European Union gives the African Union’s diplomatic efforts its full backing, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
“We support the AU efforts to find a political solution to the situation in Libya,” spokesman Michael Mann told a news briefing. (AFP)