Saturday 25 November 2017

Libyan rebels reject African Union ceasefire plan

Patrick Cockburn in Benghazi

Libya's rebel leaders yesterday rejected an attempt by an African Union (AU) delegation to broker a ceasefire, saying they would negotiate only on the condition that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his family give up power.

The delegation, which arrived in Benghazi after talks with Gaddafi in Tripoli, had proposed a ceasefire, a humanitarian corridor for cities and towns besieged by Gaddafi loyalists, and dialogue between the opposition and the government.

"The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene, therefore it is outdated," said Mustafa Ahmed Jalil, the head of the Transitional National Council.

Demonstrators outside the Tibesti hotel in Benghazi, where the delegation and the interim Transitional National Council were meeting, waved banners and shouted: "Libya is free and Gaddafi must go."

The opposition is quick to suggest that the AU is biased towards Gaddafi because he has funded politicians and invested in projects across Africa. There is also fear that the peace mission is giving legitimacy to the Gaddafi government and enabling him to play for time.

Accepted

"We can't sleep in the same bed as him," said one demonstrator yesterday. Another added that there was no civil war in Libya, but simply a conflict between the people and a dictator.

The South African President Jacob Zuma, head of the AU mission, had said yesterday after meeting the Libyan leader that Gaddafi accepted their ceasefire proposal.

But on the ground, the guns did not fall silent. A Nato statement said that regime forces had shelled the western town of Misrata for more than 30 minutes yesterday.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen was also cool on the AU plan, saying the Gaddafi government had announced many ceasefires in the past, but "did not keep their promises".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided commenting directly on the peace plans, but emphasised that Washington "have made it very clear that we want to see a ceasefire."

The problem for the opposition is that Gaddafi has shown that he is still a player in Libyan politics. His forces have stood up to Nato air attacks without breaking. The opposition's strongest card is European and American political and military support.

In practice, Libya has broken into two halves and this partition might go on for a long time because of the stalemate in the ground fighting.

Irish Independent

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