Monday, April 11, 2011

Gaddafi 'accepts' AU plan to end fighting - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Gaddafi 'accepts' AU plan to end fighting - Africa - Al Jazeera English

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi accepted an African Union plan to end the Libyan civil war but rebels said on Monday there could be no deal unless he leaves power, and there was no sign of a let-up in the fighting.

Rebels in the besieged western city of Misrata told Reuters Gaddafi's forces fired Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, while insurgents in eastern Libya were preparing to advance.

South African President Jacob Zuma, head of an AU peace mission, said early on Monday that Gaddafi had accepted a peace "road map," including a ceasefire, after talks in Tripoli.

A spokesman in the rebel capital of Benghazi said the opposition would look at the plan but Gaddafi must end his 41-year rule.

"The Libyan people have made it very clear that Gaddafi must step down, but we will consider the proposal once we have more details, and respond," spokesman Mustafa Gheriani told Reuters.

Libyan officials have repeatedly said that Gaddafi, who holds no official state position, will not quit.

The AU delegation went to Benghazi to confer with rebel leaders on Monday and were met by more than 1,000 demonstrators holding banners reading: "Free us from Gaddafi" and "Gaddafi has committed genocide."

NATO, which is bombing Libyan government armor under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians, issued a non-committal response to Zuma's appeal for the allies to stop air strikes "to give the ceasefire a chance."

At the front outside the rebel town of Ajdabiyah, in eastern Libya, rebels were preparing to advance westwards after repelling a fierce government assault on Sunday.

They buried the charred bodies of Gaddafi troops killed in air strikes outside the town and said they had been ordered to wait until noon to advance because new NATO bombing was expected.

Gheriani expressed surprise that Zuma did not travel to Benghazi with the four other African heads of state. Zuma said he had urgent business elsewhere.


NATO, which has denounced attacks by Libya's forces on civilian areas, said only that it took note of the AU proposal.

It said it had always made clear there could not be a purely military solution to the civil war, which broke out when Gaddafi crushed pro-democracy protests in February. The NATO statement did not address Zuma's call for a bombing pause.

An African Union statement said the AU peace plan called for "dialogue between the Libyan parties and the establishment of an inclusive transition period, with the view to adopting and implementing the political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis."

It made no mention of Gaddafi's future. Asked if the issue of Gaddafi stepping aside was discussed, Ramtane Lamamra, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, told reporters: "There was some discussion."

However he added: "I cannot report on confidential discussions because first of all I was not part of them, and I think they have to remain confidential between the parties involved."

NATO stepped up attacks on Gaddafi's armor over the weekend to weaken a bitter siege of Misrata in the west and disrupt an advance by his troops in the east. The alliance said it destroyed 25 government tanks.

The AU proposal included an immediate cessation of hostilities, effective monitoring of the ceasefire, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the protection of foreigners.

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