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Rebels in talks with Gaddafi on departure

Libyan rebels admitted yesterday they had held talks with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi through South African and French mediators in an attempt to persuade the dictator to stand down.

Mahmoud Shammam, a member of the executive committee of the rebels' National Transitional Council, said the negotiations were strictly focused on Gaddafi's departure.

However, no progress had been made and the content of the exchanges "depended on his mood".

"We are engaging in discussion with some people who have contact with people from the regime," said Mr Shammam, the rebel council's spokesman, at a conference in Beirut.

"We are contacting them on the mechanism of the departure of Gaddafi.

"We don't negotiate the future of Libya."

Diplomats said the South African talks had the tacit approval of President Jacob Zuma, who had visited Gaddafi twice in Tripoli since the imposition of a no-fly zone and air strikes to prevent regime attacks on civilians.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, was the leading international advocate of action against the regime, claimed yesterday that Gaddafi was in his last days, having been weakened by air strikes and opposition advances.

Mr Cameron dismissed suggestions that patience within NATO for continued military operations was running out. "Time is on our side, time is not on the side of Gaddafi who's losing his leading military commanders," he said.


"The sands of time are running out for him, and so we need to be patient and persistent. The alliance taking part in the operations includes some of the richest and most powerful and best equipped nations on Earth," said Mr Cameron.

"We also have the machinery of NATO, the backing of the United Nations, we have the support of the Arab League, (and) a number of Arab countries are active participants."

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Gaddafi threatened retaliation for the first time against the NATO and Arab nations conducting a "crusader's campaign" against his regime.

In a taped message that was played on Libyan state television, he said: "What you are doing will rebound against you and against the world with destruction, desolation and terrorism.

"You are launching a second crusader war that might extend to Africa, Europe and America." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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