Sunday 19 November 2017

Gaddafi endgame: Rebels extend surrender deadline by one week

A rebel fighter inside the house of Al-Saadi Gadhafi in Tripoli. Photo: PA
A rebel fighter inside the house of Al-Saadi Gadhafi in Tripoli. Photo: PA reporters

Libya's National Transitional Council has extended its surrender deadline to Gaddafi forces in his home town in Sirte by one week.

Meanwhile, the European Union has lifted an assets freeze against 28 Libyan firms, including ports and banks, to provide funds to the rebel leadership and kickstart the economy.

At least 400,000 people in the Libyan capital need humanitarian assistance as Tripoli and other parts of the country continue to face fuel and water shortages as well as understaffed hospitals, Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union commissioner for international aid said today.

Libyan rebel fighters have captured Muammar Gaddafi's foreign minister, according to a rebel official.

Ahmed Said, an adviser to the interior minister in the National Transitional Council, confirmed the capture today, but did not refer to the foreign minister by name.

Meanwhile, two men claiming to be Muammar Gaddafi's sons have made conflicting appeals from hiding, one of them calling for talks with rebel leaders and the other urging the regime's loyalists to fight to the death.

In a telephone call to an Arab TV station, a man identifying himself as Seif al-Islam Gaddafi urged his father's supporters to fight the rebels "day and night". He told the Syrian-based Al-Rai TV station that residents of Bani Walid agreed that "we are going to die on our land".

He said Nato carried out several airstrikes in Bani Walid that killed people. "All, move right now," said Seif al-Islam, once considered the moderate face of the Gaddafi regime and the leader's heir apparent. "Attack the rats," he said, referring to the rebels.

He said he was calling from a suburb of Tripoli and that his father was "fine". The caller dismissed reports that another Gaddafi son, al-Saadi, was negotiating the terms of his surrender. Seif al-Islam said his brother was under pressure, in part out of concern for his family.

In a separate phone call to the Al-Arabiya TV station, a man identifying himself as al-Saadi said he was ready to negotiate with the rebels to stop the bloodshed. Rebel leaders have repeatedly said they will not on't negotiate until Gaddafi is gone.

Al-Saadi said he spoke for his father and regime military commanders in calling for talks. He said that the rebels could lead Libya. "We don't mind. We are all Libyans," he said. "We have no problem to give them power."

The voice of Seif al-Islam - who was reportedly captured by the rebels earlier this month only to turn up free and defiant in Tripoli - was easily recognisable, but al-Saadi's was more difficult to confirm. "The regime is dying," said rebel council spokesman Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga, reacting to the two statements. "Gaddafi's family is trying to find an exit.

The conflicting messages came as 60 world leaders and top-level envoys meet in Paris to discuss Libya's future. The gathering is likely to focus on unfreezing billions in Libyan funds held abroad and reconciling differences over how to deal with the new Libya.

The rebel-backed National Transitional Council is expected to present a detailed list of requests at the Paris conference. It may seek short-term loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, US officials said. While they do not want international peacekeepers, the rebels may seek some kind of civilian UN police presence, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Russia has recognised the Libyan rebel movement as the country's acting leadership. A short statement from the Russian foreign ministry said diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tripoli will continue and it recognised the rebel National Transitional Council.

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