Gaddafi's call for talks rejected as 'lacking credibility'
Published 01/05/2011 | 05:00
LIBYAN leader Muammar Gaddafi said yesterday he was ready for a ceasefire and negotiations, provided Nato "stop its planes", but he refused to give up power as rebels and Western powers demand.
The rebels and Nato rejected Gaddafi's offer, saying it lacked credibility.
A spokesman for the insurgents said the time for compromise had passed and Nato said air strikes would go on as long as Libyan civilians were being threatened.
Weeks of Western air strikes have failed to dislodge the Libyan leader, instead imposing a stalemate on a war Gaddafi looked to have been winning.
But with neither side apparently able to gain the upper hand, Gaddafi struck a more conciliatory tone in an 80-minute televised address to the nation in the early hours yesterday.
"Libya is ready until now to enter a ceasefire," said Gaddafi, speaking from behind a desk and aided by reams of paper covered in what appeared to be hand-written notes. "We were the first to welcome a ceasefire and we were the first to accept a ceasefire . . . but the Crusader Nato attack has not stopped," he said. "The gate to peace is open."
Gaddafi denied mass attacks on civilians and challenged Nato to find him 1,000 people who had been killed in the conflict.
"We did not attack them or cross the sea . . . why are they attacking us?" asked Gaddafi, referring to European countries involved in the air strikes.
"Let us negotiate with you, the countries that attack us. Let us negotiate."
But as he spoke, Nato warplanes hit three targets close to the television building in Tripoli, in what state media said was an attempt to kill Gaddafi, who has ruled since a 1969 coup.
The rebels' transitional national council dismissed Gaddafi's gesture, saying the Libyan leader had repeatedly offered ceasefires only to continue violating human rights.
"Gaddafi's regime has lost all credibility," council spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga said in a statement. "The time for compromise has passed. The people of Libya cannot possibly envisage or accept a future Libya in which Gaddafi's regime plays any role."
In Brussels, a Nato official said Libyan authorities had announced ceasefires several times before only to continue attacks on cities and civilians.
"We need to see actions, not words . . . any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable," the official said.
"Nato will continue operations until all attacks and threats against civilians have ceased, until all of Gaddafi's forces have returned to base and until there is a full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need of assistance," he said.
The official declined to comment whether Nato would be open to meeting Gaddafi's representatives for talks, if contacts for such talks were made. Gaddafi, meanwhile, has refused to leave his North African homeland or quit.
"I'm not leaving my country," Gaddafi said. "No one can force me to leave my country and no one can tell me not to fight for my country."
Gaddafi's forces showed no sign of giving up the fight either, claiming to have captured Misrata on Friday, the last major rebel outpost in western Libya, but Nato said it saw no evidence of that.
Libya's government has threatened to attack any ships approaching Misrata, potentially depriving insurgents of a lifeline to their heartland in the east of the country.
Nato said Gaddafi forces had laid mines on the approach to the harbour, which has been under siege for weeks, and forced a temporary halt in humanitarian shipments.