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UN envoy meets rebels amid Libya 'stalemate'
NATO continues to hammer Gaddafi's forces around Libya and Britain has said there would be no let up during Ramadan.
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2011 21:33
A man tears up a poster of Muammar Gaddafi inside the Libyan Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria [AFP]

The UN envoy to Libya and the Benghazi-based opposition council have discussed ideas for ending the fighting in the North African country, but said a firm initiative had yet to take shape.

With a diplomatic push to end the conflict gathering steam, envoy Abdul Elah al-Khatib told the Reuters news agency after the meeting on Monday that he would head to Tripoli on Tuesday to hold talks with the government.

"We did not put a plan in front of them. We discussed the views and ideas on how we can trigger a political process ... to achieve a political solution," Khatib said.

Also on Monday, Libya accused NATO of killing at least seven people in an air raid on a medical clinic in Zliten, east of Tripoli, as the top US officer spoke of a "stalemate" in NATO's campaign.

"We are, generally, in a stalemate," US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen told a news briefing in Washington billed as his last before retirement.

Mullen said NATO has "dramatically attrited [reduced] his forces" and "additional pressure has been brought," even if Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has not been ousted.

"In the long run, I think it's a strategy that will work ... [toward] removal of Gaddafi from power," Mullen said.

War drags on

Gaddafi is clinging to power despite a four-month NATO air campaign and five months of fighting with rebels who have seized large parts of the North African country.

NATO has continued to hammer Gaddafi's forces around Libya, striking twice in central Tripoli on Monday, and Britain has said there would be no let up during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in August.

But hopes have grown for a negotiated end to a war that has dragged on longer than many initially expected.

Speaking to Reuters after the meeting, senior opposition official Mahmoud Jibreel said he had made clear his side would reject any initiative that did not involve the removal of Gaddafi from power as a first step to peace.

That appears to be a tacit rejection of UN ideas floated informally by a diplomat last week, which envisaged a ceasefire followed by a power-sharing government without Gaddafi.

Khatib, a senior Jordanian politician, told Reuters in Amman last week that his ideas involved an agreement on a ceasefire and, simultaneously, a deal on setting up a mechanism to manage the transitional period. He gave no details.

"So far, there is no initiative. He is trying to propose some general ideas, see what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, and on the basis of that he can propose an initiative," Jibreel said. "We are not committed to anything unless we have something written."

Diplomatic push

Khatib's visit comes a day after Gaddafi's foreign minister, Abdelati Obeidi, ended three days of talks in Cairo to seek a negotiated end to the war.

Lawyers in Libya are building a case against Gaddafi [Al Jazeera]

Libya's government has said its representatives are ready to hold more talks with the United States and the opposition, but that Gaddafi himself will not negotiate and will not quit.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said on Friday that senior Libyan officials had a "productive dialogue" with US counterparts earlier this month in a rare meeting that followed US recognition of the opposition government.

Complicating Gaddafi's situation is the fact that the world court in The Hague is seeking his arrest for crimes against humanity allegedly committed by his forces. This makes it difficult for him to find refuge outside the country.

Hopes for a negotiated settlement have grown, however, since France said for the first time last week that Gaddafi could stay in Libya as long as he gives up power.
 
The opposition leaders have given conflicting signals in recent weeks over whether they would allow Gaddafi and his family to stay in Libya as part of a deal, providing he gives up power.

In the latest comment on the issue, opposition leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told the Wall Street Journal that it would be acceptable.

"Gaddafi can stay in Libya but it will have conditions," he said. "We will decide where he stays and who watches him. The same conditions will apply to his family."

Tough fight

The poorly armed opposition fighters seem unlikely to unseat Gaddafi quickly. Rebels announced they had almost taken the oil town of Brega, but later said that minefields had slowed their advance.

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Libyan state TV showed images of empty streets and oil storage facilities in Brega that it said were taken on Monday.

Rebels fighting on the western front near Misurata, say they have pushed closer to Zlitan, on the Mediterranean coast 160km east of Tripoli.

Twenty casualties were taken to hospital in the nearby rebel-held city of Misurata and to a field hospital, but doctors said most had only light shrapnel wounds.
 
Zlitan is the largest city between rebel-held Misurata and Tripoli, and remains in Gaddafi's control. Were the anti-government fighters to take Zlitan, attention would turn to Khums, the next large town on the coastal road to the capital.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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